HAL Dhruv inches toward 2009 European certification

 - August 28, 2007, 11:32 AM

Indian-based manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) is making progress toward European certification of its Dhruv light-twin helicopter. A tentative schedule calls for European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification early in 2009. Indian deliveries began in 2002.

According to chief test pilot Upadhyay Chandra, the Dhruv has been designed to meet JAR 29/FAR 29 requirements (which govern helicopters with an mtow of more than 7,000 pounds). In March, an EASA team visited HAL’s facilities in Bangalore, where,  according to an HAL update, the team carried out an “initial airworthiness assessment” of the Dhruv.

This was not the first meeting on the Dhruv between Indians and Europeans. In November 2006, an EASA team visited the Directorate General Civil Aviation (DGCA), India’s civil aviation authority, in New Delhi. The purpose was “familiarization and assessment of the DGCA’s certification system.” The first meetings had taken place earlier last year in Cologne, Germany, at EASA’s headquarters.

A road map the two agencies developed earlier calls for “proposing additional means of compliance” in December. The EASA, DGCA and HAL are supposed to agree on the certification program. Testing should last about one year, leading to certification two months after the conclusion of the test phase. In the meantime, the EASA and its Indian counterpart are expected to sign a working arrangement that outlines the sharing of responsibilities on continued airworthiness.

“The Dhruv is already certified for IFR operations in India, Chile and Israel,” Chandra told AIN. Equivalent approvals are being worked on in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Military Appeal
According to HAL, the Dhruv is “at least” 10 to 15 percent less expensive to operate than its competitors in the 12,000-pound-mtow class. Although the company is promoting the Dhruv for various civil roles such as air ambulance, parapublic missions and executive and passenger transport, most of the sales have come from the military. Of the 82 Dhruvs produced as of last month, five are civil models. The company is currently producing 12 of the helicopters per year and plans to increase that number to 36 per year in 2011.

The Dhruv can land at altitudes as high as 20,000 feet, Chandra said. It can perform Category-A operations at sea level up to a takeoff weight of 11,600 pounds, and it features a four-axis autopilot. According to the manufacturer, with 10 passengers and a crew of two, the Dhruv can fly 150 nm out and back for an offshore mission. Its best-range speed is close to 120 knots. Its maximum cruise speed is about 138 knots.

Chandra told AIN that HAL has begun R&D on fly-by-light controls, which replace conventional hydraulic flight controls with optical fibers.

Dhruv Makes First Flight with New Engine

Protracted plans to replace the Turbomeca TM333 turboshafts with more modern Ardiden 1H/Shaktis made significant progress on August 16 with the first flight of a re-engined Dhruv helicopter. The sortie confirmed “the aeromechanical behavior and performance” of the engine, according to French-based Turbomeca. The Shakti is expected to enhance the helicopter’s reliability and performance under hot and high conditions.

The first flight of the 1,200-shp engine was pegged for March 2006 but the aircraft/engine combination had performed only ground tests since mid-March. The engine made its first ground run in October 2005 at Turbomeca’s facilities in France.
Turbomeca and HAL are jointly developing the 1H/Shakti version of the Ardiden engine that powers the Dhruv. Its EASA certification is pegged for late this year. Turbomeca said that the Dhruv will be offered with both engine options, the Shakti and the TM333.