Sleuths look for crash clues

Saras trainer aircraft crashes near Bengaluru

Saras trainer aircraft crashes near Bengaluru

New Delhi: Two shoebox-sized recording devices may hold clues to why a prototype of India’s first home-grown civilian plane crashed near Bangalore yesterday during its 49th test flight without a warning to flight trackers on the ground, officials said.The crash is a setback to a project conceived more than 15 years ago, and plagued in the past by delays, poor project execution, and an aircraft so heavy that its first flights could not accommodate its planned 14 passenger seats.
Investigators from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) arrived in Bangalore today to examine the wreckage of Saras, the light transport aircraft, developed by the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), a part of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.
The plane that crashed was the second prototype (PT2) that had first flown in April 2007, and had logged more than 50 hours of flight, a CSIR official said.
“It looked like everything was going fine until we lost contact with the plane,” said M.S. Chidananda, the head of NAL’s centre for civil aircraft design. “The altitude of the aircraft was between 7,000 to 10,000 feet when telemetry (data) and radio contact with the plane was lost abruptly,” Chidananda told The Telegraph.
A new aircraft needs to accumulate at least 300 hours of flying time through flight tests to obtain an airworthiness certificate from the DGCA.
The Saras had faced a weight problem when it first rolled out. The actual weight of the aircraft was 6,600kg instead of the planned 6,100kg.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had last year criticised the Saras programme for time overruns, deficiencies in project management and a delay in obtaining airworthiness certificates from the DGCA.The CAG report had pointed out that PT1 flight had taken place three years later than scheduled and PT2 had flown after a delay of five years. It also charged the NAL with initially ordering an engine less powerful than what was required.
It’s a fairly standard procedure to use an engine with greater power to tackle a weight problem, but the (aircraft’s) take-off speed and take-off distance will increase, said Sita Ram Valluri, a leading aeronautical engineer in Bangalore and former NAL director.


~ by anand213 on March 8, 2009.

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