Bengaluru, May 26: Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is hopeful of bagging the much-awaited European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification for the civil variant of Advance Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv by the end of this year.
An official with the Department of Defence Production told Mathrubhumi that the EASA certificate would give HAL enough room to aggressively market the Dhruv once again.
“EASA certification means that HAL can comfortably sell Dhruv to those countries which accept EASA certification. With majority of countries favouring EASA norms, HAL must put in some smart marketing strategies to sell Dhruvs now. They should not wait for the final certification to come and rather begin the ground work right away,” the top official said.
He felt that Dhruv fits in perfectly into the NDA government’s Make in India template, with immense export potential.
“The helicopter market is tough world over and HAL have got a taste of it in the last 10 years. Once EASA nod comes in, HAL must go all out to export the Dhruvs to new markets in Europe. It’s a first in India’s aviation history. Dhruv can be cash cow, if put through good sense of marketing,” he added.
LUH project to gain from current certification: HAL insides are of the opinion that it will be a challenge to enter new markets already on the radar of its competitors. HAL hopes that the process for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification for Dhruvs (must to market the helicopters in America) will be taken up bilaterally between India and the US governments.
“It will be a challenge to enter new markets of the world. It’s a tremendous learning process for all of us in HAL. Nobody has done such extensive certification process before in India. It will come handy for the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) certification as well,” an HAL official said.
The LUH is HAL’s latest product set to undertake its maiden flight soon. “The certification process for LUH will be definitely faster,” the official adds.
HAL insiders feel ALH already over-tested: According to one school of thought in HAL, the Dhruv chopper has already been ‘over-tested’ in the last many years.
Many feel that HAL’s whole prototype testing and certification programme was tailored to meet EASA\FAA certification requirements, in addition to the stringent requirements of the Services.
“Indian agencies like CRE (Certified Reliability Engineer), Certification Review Item (CRI) and DGCA strictly went by the book. We had a tough time in explaining and educating the authorities to look at the practical side of the requirement and not be theoretical. At the end, we passed all the tests with flying colours,” an HAL official told Mathrubhumi.
Dhruv was again put through a series of trails ahead of it being sold to Chile. The Chilean equivalent of DGCA went through the whole test results comparing with FAA requirements.
“Wherever they required any additional results, they were furnished. Before flying in Turkey we again went through the process of explaining the certification results to their authorities as they would not permit us to fly there unless we met FAA certification requirements,” says the official.
“In short, Dhruv has been over-tested. The DGCA ensured that we met all FAA and EASA requirements in many ways,” the official added.
Crucial noise measurement trials completed: HAL had recently announced that the mandatory noise measurement flight trials on Dhruv were carried out at the Mysuru Airport in Karnataka towards obtaining the EASA certification.
HAL Chairman T Suvarna Raju said that during the process, external aircraft noise levels of Dhruv in three flight conditions were measured, including take-off, approach and flyover.
“The noise measurement test programme starts with the identification of low acoustic profile test site and meeting the geometrical size of runway and cross runway distances. We are happy that the weather parameters and the aircraft parameters show that the noise levels are within the acceptable limits for ALH,” Raju added.
He said the EASA representatives witnessed the entire flight test and preliminary analysis of the recorded noise data. Anotec Consulting, a Spanish company, provided the hardware, software and technical support for the programme.
The civil variant of Dhruv is currently cleared by Indian certifying agency – the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
Over 140 Dhruvs operated by armed forces: Around 140 Dhruvs are being currently operated by various armed forces logging over 1, 30,000 flight hours. While the Army Aviation has been extensively using Dhruvs for various operations, the Indian Air Force (IAF), the Indian Navy, the Coast Guard and the Border Security Force have also inducted the Dhruvs.
The IAF’s Sarang aerobatic display team, consisting of Dhruvs, has been performing since 2003, demonstrating its finest maneuverability skills.
During the ongoing Operation Raahat in Nepal, the choppers being operated by the Army Aviation demonstrated its ability to fly at hostile weather conditions. In Nepal, the pilots executed extremely difficult landings during rescue operations.
Dhruv is an all-weather helicopter which can carry 10-16 people at heights of 10,000 feet, in the 5.5 tone class.