The SARAS is an indigenous aircraft developed by the National Aeronautics Laboratories (NAL), which is overseen by the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR).
The upgraded 14-seater SARAS PT1N completed its test flight earlier in January, nearly 11 years after it had crashed during previous tests. The crash had led to the scrapping of its development program before it was revived.
The new 14-seater, 7-tonne class multi-role transport aircraft was commanded by Indian Air Force Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment’s (ASTE) Wing Commander UP Singh, Group Captain RV Panicker and Group Captain KP Bhat during the January test flight.
A team of 40 scientists and engineers worked for nine months to develop the aircraft.
The aircraft will soon be certified for both civil and military use. The plane is capable of executing both day and night missions. It can be used for transporting civilians, freight, and in remote sensing exercises. It can take off and land from semi-prepared airfields and even on grass runways. The aircraft was designed to operate and manoeuvre at high altitudes and under extreme temperatures.
The aircraft has been designed to travel at 425 km/h and it has a maximum continuous flight time of around five hours. The Indian Air Force has expressed interest in acquiring at least 15 aircraft, while CSIR-NAL is pushing for at least 50.
The project kicked off in 1991 and the first prototype was introduced in 2004. After years of development, the second SARAS prototype crashed outside Bengaluru in 2009. The project was canned till the Directorate General of Civil Aviation completed its investigation. Despite the allegations of defects in design, the probe absolved the design team.
The PT1N has received upgrades from the previous version. The revised version of the plane is equipped with a more modern avionics system, improved radar, linear wing flap actuator, environment control, engine flap actuators, better flight control system, a larger metallic rudder for enhanced control, redesigned landing-gear actuators, a brand-new brake system, and a fire resistant design for the aircraft’s nacelle.
In its first high-speed taxi trial earlier this month, the aircraft was the in air for about 40 minutes and reached an altitude of 8,500 ft and touched 269 km/h. The aircraft will undergo evaluation in over 20 flights till the production design is frozen.