Mahindra to make smaller aircraft for Indian market

Monday, 28 June 2010, 10:30 Hrs   |    3 Comments
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Bangalore: Mahindra Aerospace of the $6.3-billion utility vehicle maker Mahindra Group will become the first Indian private firm to manufacture smaller civil aircraft for the Indian general aviation market, which is set to boom this decade.

"We will manufacture the turboprop aircraft in 2-20 seat capacity at our recently acquired Gippsland Aeronautics (GA) in Victoria State of Australia and market them in India," Mahindra Board Member Hemant Luthra told IANS here.

Once Mahindra Aerospace plant at Malur near Bangalore is set up and certified for production in the next three years, the manufacturing will be shifted to India to hard-sell the multi-utility aircraft for various civil aviation requirements.

"We want to be the premier Indian producer of aircraft. We will explore every opportunity to become a top aircraft manufacturer on the lines of the Brazilian Embraer," Mahindra Vice-Chairman and Managing Director Anand Mahindra said on the margins of an aviation event here Saturday.

The 26-year-old GippsAero is a leading turboprop aircraft manufacturer for the general aviation sector and has certification in 32 countries worldwide, including the U.S. Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR 23), which testifies the highest degree of safety to fly fare-paying passengers between small and remote airfields.

Mahindra Aerospace acquired majority stake (75.1 percent) in GippsAero and Aerostaff Australia for 175 crore ($38 million) in December 2009 jointly with Kotak Private Equity.

Aerostaff is a 20-year-old manufacturer of aerospace components and assemblies for global aerospace original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) at Port Melbourne in Victoria state.

About 250 smaller aircraft of GippsAero operate in 34 countries. It currently has an order book to manufacture about 20 aircraft in the 8-10 seat capacity.

"As aircraft manufacture is labour intensive, there will be advantages in assembling some aircraft in India but safety is paramount. Till our factories get accredited for the highest safety standards, the planes will be made in Australia and will gradually migrate them to be made in India," Luthra said.

As GippsAero has IP/type certificate approvals and produced various aircraft meeting international standards, Mahindra plans to manufacture even the five-seater turboprop, jointly developed by Mahindra Plexion Ltd with the state-run National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) here.

The prototype, codenamed NM5, is a multi-role, multi-mission civil aircraft, modelled on NAL's Hansa project.

"NM5 has a huge potential in the Indian market, as it can be used for short hauls by corporate executives, VIP travel, tourism, medical evacuation, training pilots and ferrying cargo," Luthra said.

A study conducted by A.T. Kearney for the Mahindras revealed about $5 billion (23,250 crore) of general aviation aircraft are sold worldwide every year, with turboprops accounting for over 50 percent of the total market.

"We see a tremendous market in India and overseas. We will also price our product against competition to ensure that we have enough orders to deliver every year," Luthra added.

With the civil and military aircraft market set to grow exponentially, Mahindra Aerospace has decided to invest $50 million (230 crore) in the Malur plant to expand capacity for rolling out smaller aircraft and components to tier-1 aerospace suppliers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

"We are encouraged by tier-1 suppliers and OEMs to quadruple our investment in Bangalore facility from $10 million planned earlier. We are looking at a 20-acre land, with access to an old airstrip at Kolar for test flights," Luthra noted.

The company plans to get its components' manufacturing facility certified first and then the assembly plant in the next 18-24 months.

The Malur facility will allow the company to make components for the general aviation market, meet offset needs of OEMs selling civil or military aircraft to India and an effective vendor to global aerospace majors.

"General aviation is a vast network, with cities as a primary hub being served by larger aircraft/jets. We intend to serve the final frontiers with smaller/turboprop aircraft that can land on unpaved or short runways, making any city/town accessible," Mahindra said.
Source: IANS
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