Aviation

Mahindra may start making, selling planes in India

DELHI: The aerospace unit of Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd plans to sell planes built by its Australian unit in India this year, a top company executive said. Mahindra may also consider manufacturing the planes in India if sales pick up.

“We are hoping that (regulatory) approvals will come this year; so once approvals come this year, we will start selling the planes in India,” said S.P. Shukla, chairman, Mahindra Aerospace Pvt. Ltd, part of the $17.8-billion Mahindra Group, at an aerospace summit on Wednesday, reports Mint.

In 2008, Mahindra  bought Australia’s GippsAero, which makes the  eight-seater GA8 Airvan close to Melbourne.  About 220 of these planes are flying in 30 countries.

Shukla explained why the plane continues to be made in Melbourne. “In Australia, there was a standard of CASA (Australian aviation regulator); CASA has a reciprocal arrangement with FAA (US aviation regulator) in the US, which has a reciprocal arrangement with Europe. And therefore, it makes sense if you have approvals in Australia to continue assembling in Australia,” he said.

The next step could be to make in India.

“After we start selling the plane in India, we will definitely look at the possibility of making also,” he said, adding some parts of the plane were already made in Bengaluru and supplied to the Melbourne facility.

Aircraft certifications are tough to get and without them, it’s difficult to find buyers.

According to a government official aware of the matter, GippsAero’s Airvan is designed for single-pilot operation. However, India’s aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) insists that planes above 1,500kg must have two pilots for commercial flights. Therefore, the cockpit needs to be redesigned and re-certified if Mahindra wants to sell these aircraft in India.

“For private use, they can still fly, but they have to change the design and give provision for two pilots if they want clearance for commercial operations. Then, they’ll have to first get approval from CASA and then by DGCA,” the same government official said, requesting anonymity.

Mahindra is also working on a slightly larger plane with 10 seats called Airvan 10, the company had said earlier.

Aircraft modifications are tough and costly.

“Two pilots are important because if one pilot is incapacitated, then the other pilot takes over. The second issue is that this is a single-engine plane and they would be operating out of non-standard fields where bird activity maybe an issue. So, you need one set of eyes to be looking out and other to the fly the plane,” said Mohan Ranganathan, a Chennai-based aviation analyst.

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