Indian Aviation Looks Beyond Fleeting Supply Disruptions

 - October 31, 2022, 3:45 PM
A joint venture between Airbus and Tata Sons to build C295 military transports in India could help incubate a commercial aircraft manufacturing industry in the subcontinent. (Photo: Indian MoD)

Indian aviation faces a conundrum of increased demand from passengers but fewer available aircraft due to global Pratt & Whitney and CFM engine supply problems, effectively grounding a large number of IndiGo and Go First Airbus A320s. To meet rising international demand, IndiGo will wet lease six Boeing 777s from Turkish Airlines for six months.

With supply-chain disruptions expected to improve next year, traffic projections continue to show an increase in passenger boardings to 140 million next year despite increased fuel prices, the Ukraine-Russia conflict, and the depreciation of the rupee. According to international consultancy Center for Aviation, Indian airlines will operate more than 700 aircraft by the end of 2023, an increase of about 50 aircraft compared with 2022.

Meanwhile, Airbus chief commercial officer Christian Scherer reported that Airbus will deliver one aircraft a week to customers in India for the next 10 years. “India is the largest market in the world for our flagship commercial product, the A320,” he said.

Scherer spoke at an event to mark the construction of a manufacturing plant where Airbus and Tata Group have agreed to collaborate on the assembly of the C295 transport aircraft for the Indian Air Force. “It will kickstart the manufacturing ecosystem in India,” he proclaimed. The contract includes assembly, test and qualification, delivery, and maintenance of the complete life cycle of the aircraft.

The deal marks India’s first private-sector aircraft project, which, once established, would lead to the manufacture of civil passenger aircraft, said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the inauguration. He added that India’s Regional Connectivity Scheme, which offers incentives to operators to fly to remote and small towns, had provided a big boost to the aviation sector. “India will need over 2,000 aircraft in the next 15 years,” he said. “Today is a crucial step in this direction.’’

Regional cargo airplanes for logistics hold the potential for service into remote areas. The C295 carries FAA and EASA certification for civilian use and can operate on unpaved airstrips—many of which the government is restoring.

Of the 56 C295s ordered, the partners will assemble 40 in Vadodara, in the west Indian state of Gujarat. “The…program will see Airbus bring its complete array of aircraft manufacturing and servicing to India in collaboration with the Tata group,” said Tata Sons chairman N. Chandrasekaran. “This will catapult India to produce quality systems, which will help to produce high-precision and high-quality manufacturing products.”

Rohit Tomar, managing partner of Caladrius Aero Consulting, explained that skills gained in the structural design and testing of the transporter would go a long way toward incubating commercial aircraft manufacturing capability in India. “The key to 'Make in India' civil aircraft will be with DGCA and how quickly it ramps up its internal capabilities and processes,” he said. “The requirement of material engineers is critical.”