India’s first civil plane Saras takes to the skies after nearly a decade
A prototype of Saras, India’s first civil aeroplane, flew on Wednesday for nearly 40 minutes over the Bengaluru skies for the first time in nearly a decade, kindling hopes of a revival of a homegrown civil aircraft programme in the country.
The Saras (PT-1N) plane was piloted by Wg Cdr U P Singh and Group Captain B Panicker, pilots of the Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE), the Indian Air Force’s elite school for test pilots, people familiar with the development said.
The 14-seater civil aircraft programme, named after the Indian crane Saras, was conceived in the 1990’s as a joint project between India and Russia. NAL took it on its own when Myasischev Design Bureau, the Russian state agency for civilian planes backed out due to the financial crisis that emerged after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
It took nearly two decades for scientists at NAL to fly the plane first in May 2004.
In 2009, the second prototype of Saras on a test flight crashed on Bengaluru outskirts killing three Indian Air Force pilots.