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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Tough nuts to crack, but here comes a safe Tejas


“We are not here to win hearts. Safety of Tejas is paramount and we have mastered the art of saying NO with a smile, if things were not in place. Once, I was even summoned by Delhi for not clearing a flight for a long time. I explained point by point and everyone was convinced. We were given an uphill task and we did it with all the honesty and sincerity. There might have been delays due to our firm stand, but our mission was to clear an aircraft that was Safe to Fly,” CEMILAC Chief Executive Tamil Mani, Distinguished Scientist, In-charge of Airworthiness and Certification was candid, as ever.
“We were attempting everything for the first time in the country. Tejas is an advanced fighter aircraft with cutting edge, state-of the-art technologies. Hence, the challenge was equal to the designers and the certification agencies. We are an independent  organization that takes  the responsibility to declare that the aircraft thus produced is Safe, Reliable and meets the desired performance as specified for IOC Phase-1, and is therefore ‘Fit to Fly’ by the squadron pilots,” Tamil Mani adds.
Certification team got activated the moment ASR was out
The Regional Centre for Military Airworthiness (Aircraft) (RCMA-A/C), a unit of CEMILAC, was tasked with the Airworthiness Certification of LCA, right from the time the Air Staff Requirement (ASR) were out for the LCA project in 1985. Certification of a complex project like LCA can be done only through a concurrent approach, where the certification team is involved in the project right from its conceptual stage. The first phase is the design evaluation phase, where RCMA (A/C) has carefully examined the design of all systems and evaluated the design as against the Requirements, Standards, Performance and Safety.
The proof of the pudding lies in testing the systems, which is the next phase of Certification. Test schedules are made to cover the functional and failure evaluation of the system. RCMA (A/C), by way of complete scrutiny of the requirement specifications and standards, ensured that the test schedule is correct and adequate. Before the first flight a Flight Clearance Note (FCN) is generated, capturing all the operational conditions, limitations and flight envelopes. Safety of flight is thereafter ensured through adherence to the FCN. Every test flight is accompanied by a Flight Test Schedule, thoroughly scrutinized and coordinated by RCMA (A/C) for its safety. It is a matter of pride that, today with 11 platforms flying, logging a total of 1500-plus flights, there has not been a single incident, which no other aircraft producing country in the world could boast off. This is a clear testimony to the focus and dedication of the LCA team, especially the certification authorities, CEMILAC and DGAQA, who have ensured adherence to stringent safety and inspection norms.
To ensure timely Certification of LCA for IOC-1, RCMA(A/C) drew a Route to Certification Document. This document took stock of all the completed activities for IOC and highlighted the activities that needed to be completed. Based on RCMA’s involvement at every stage of the program and also by careful examination of the requirements and test reports both ground and flight, involving local and outstation trials, activities such as Line Replaceable Unit (LRU) clearance, ASR compliance, Military Standard compliance, ground testing, flight testing and closures of all pilot and ground snags were clearly highlighted in the ‘Route to Certification Document.’
17 major systems, 346 LRUs, 33 software-embedded systems, 43 MilStds
To ensure systematic approach to clearance, RCMA (A/C) evolved a novel System Certification methodology. The aircraft was categorized into 17 major systems, with 346 LRUs and 33 software embedded systems. All the LRUs were certified by the issuance of Type approval. This ensured that the LRU has undergone complete qualification tests as stipulated by RCMA (A/C) and has met all Safety and Performance standards as laid down by CEMILAC. Each of the 17 systems is individually cleared and certified for its performance and safety over 1,500 test flights including outstation trials such as the hot weather, cold weather, high-altitude, sea-level and weapon trials. The design and testing of individual systems were evaluated as against compliance of top level requirements of the ASR and relevant Military Standards. There are 43 top level and several associated Military Standards to comply. RCMA (A/C) has ensured that Tejas is of an international product by complying with each and every requirement of all the relevant Military standards.  
Being an advanced fighter, there has been an extensive use of software in the flight controls, avionics and weapon management systems. A failure of which could infringe safety or a mission. Software was hence certified through stringent independent verification and validation through out its development life cycle, right from specification, design, implementation and testing at various levels.
We cleared the Tejas based on the demonstrated capabilities, says Tamil Mani, Distinguished Scientist, CEMILAC Chief Executive,   
We are responsible to identify the likely flaws. We conduct a series of tests and even fail many systems (at ground level) to see what happens. Not once, but many times. Every flight of Tejas is coordinated by us. We cleared the aircraft based on the demonstrated capabilities, and not on the design capabilities, not once but many times. Release to Service Document (RSD) defines the operational capabilities of the aircraft. Tejas has flown up to a maximum speed of 1,350 kmph and pulled 6G, so far. The remaining design parameters will be demonstrated in the next phase. ADA will have to do the full tests required by CEMILAC for approval. The journey so far has been very exciting and even we have evolved over the years. It is a mammoth task and great achievement by the designers, engineers, flight crew, pilots and many more. Remember, when the fly-by-wire system was designed, none of us really knew what it was. We have learned over the years. Everybody felt that we (CEMILAC) can’t do it. India is a country, were people say that the cup is half empty, instead of half full.
The arrival of PMT from IAF propelled Tejas project
During the course of the interview with the CEMILAC team, it was very evident that the Tejas program got a major boost with the arrival of the Program Management Team (PMT) from the IAF. According to CEMILAC officials, the PMT changed the face of Tejas program. “The communication became better and the correct feedback went to IAF. The Appreciation while executing various complexities of work started to pour in. There was better bonding between the user and the rest,” the CEMILAC team said.
MCA will be the biggest beneficiary of Tejas project: Kanchan Biswas, Sc G, Associate Director (Aircraft)
We were doing everything of this nature for the first time, though we had enough experience working on 14 platforms (including upgrades), before taking up the Tejas certification. The knowledge levels were also low and test facilities were not available initially. Today, with CAD-CAM, you can walk through an aircraft before it’s made. I am confident that the future programs will now become faster. The MCA project will gain immensely from Tejas. MCA will be the biggest beneficiary.
We had the guts to tell foreign suppliers to give quality products: P.R. Baghel, Regional Dir., RCMA
It’s a fact that we have set very tough quality standards. I remember an incident when rain drop test were to be done on Tejas ComSet and fungus test on some components. It had to be done on Indian conditions. It was a South African firm and there were some issues. They were trying to pass the buck on to our systems and eventually we put our foot down and said what went wrong. We have the guts to tell that what’s wrong. We won’t allow an iota of doubt to fall on us. Nobody should take us for granted. Our mission is to make Tejas safe.
I have grown with Tejas and she‘s like my child: Nirmala, Technical Officer ‘C’, Assistant Head of Electrical and Avionics Systems
We follow the SEIZE (Satisfaction, Experience, Inspiration, Zeal and Enhancement) philosophy of work.  I look after the hardware systems from the Avionics side. If there was delay in the program, then it was due to the lack of awareness and we are admitting it. But, that’s a thing of past and we have evolved. I am with this project for the last 10 years and I must tell that my male colleagues respected the technical capabilities. As a mother, I can say LCA is my baby. We have very strong sentimental attachment to this program and remember that we withstood all onslaughts.  Eventually, the program is the winner.
I was shivering when I cleared Tejas for its maiden flight on Jan. 4: Gracy Philip, Scientist F, Software Group Head
I joined the program when I was 22 years. The digital-fly-by-wire systems are very safety critical. Ours is a very demanding job and I have seen it inside out for the last 18 years. Our job was to get into a detailed analysis whenever a failure happened. I am grateful to God that everything has been smooth. I still remember my hands were shivering and heart beat doubling when I cleared the first flight of Tejas on January 4, 2001. When we look back, we have crossed many milestones. We are wedded to this project and very much insulated from all the bad publicity. Ultimately, the truth has arrived. You can call it by any name – IOC, FOC, Induction.
We cleared a system that’s a safe home for pilots: Pradeep Mahuli, Additional Regional Director, Aircraft Escape Systems
We have built in safety features in consultations with all the pilots. Today, even though there are a couple of non-safety critical issues to be closed, I can proudly say that Tejas is definitely a world-class product. I am responsible for clearances of aircraft escape system, environmental control system, life support system, brake parachute system and flying clothing. Here my hero is the pilot and I do everything for him. The ejection seats are tested in UK and also we carry out various flight-critical assessments. Having traversed this far and interacted with leaders in the world, we have today cleared Tejas with complete satisfaction.
We endured every bit of polite sledge: Peter Arun, Scientist E, Head IFCS
We are the people who give the Flight Clearance Note (FCN). Nobody could rock our boat and our focus was protected from all the negative and one-sided remarks on Tejas. We had a strong devotion for the program. We have waited, nurtured, grown and achieved. We knew it will happen. We endured every bit of polite sledge. We were given the space within CEMILAC to debate. To me, LCA is a joy for designers, delight for pilots and with great pleasure we cleared it for IOC.
We hope to find some time for our families now: Jeba Kumar, Scientist E (Head Aero & CLAW) and Giri, Scientist E (Head Structures)
Jeba: When I cleared the fixed CLAW in 1996, there were very few admirers even from within the project. We ignored all our personal pleasures in life and just focused on the project. All the accolades started to come late, when people realized our worth.
Giri: We understand the needs of designers and they too understand our needs. There are many things we have sacrificed in our lives. I hope we will find some time to be with our families now. I used to share this joke with my friends: After 6 pm if we reach home and the wife smiles. After 7, it’s a stare; after 8 verbal abuse and beyond that ‘out of control’!
That’s all folks from CEMLIC in this edition of Tejas’ story. At the end of it all, CEMILAC says there has been a paradigm shift in the project. Earlier they were branded as bureaucrats and now they are treated as partners. “When it comes to certification, we don’t have any attachment to any one unit or individual. Our attachment is to the program and we wanted to ensure its safety. We are the impartial on-field umpires,” concludes CEMILAC CEO Tamil Mani.
THE TEAM:  Venkatesha T.V., Sc D, Head Mechanical Systems; S.N. Giri, Sc E, Head Structures; S.K. jebakumar, Sc E, Head Aero & CLAW; M. Peter Arjun, Sc E, Head IFCS; S. Nirmala, Technical Officer "c", Asst. Head of Electrical 7 Avionics Systems; Gracy Philip, Sc F, Head, Software Group, Pradeep Mahuli, Addl. Regional Director, Aircraft Escape Systems; P.R. Baghel, Reg. Director RCMA (A/C); K. Tamil Mani, Distinguished Scientist & Chief Executive, CEMILAC; P.S. Deshmukh, Sc G, Grp. Director (Systems); G. Gouda, Grop. Director (Propulsions); R. Kamala Kannan, Sc F, Addl. Director and Kanchan Biswas, Sc G, Associate Director (Aircraft)
(Next, Part-3: FCS Team, ADE)

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