It is not every day we see a well-engineered but dead project being revived in favour of a newly discovered untapped market. The same happened with the National Aerospace Laboratories Hansa light trainer aircraft, which is all set to make a comeback in a fresh package known as Hansa-NG (Next Generation).
The Hansa aircraft are light aircraft built for commercial pilot basic training & hobby flying purposes. The “original” Hansa flew way back in 1993 for the first time. It was NAL’s first attempt at developing an aircraft on its own. Hansa received a provisional type certificate from the DGCA in December 1998 and a full certificate in 2000. In the next 7 years after certification, NAL sold only 12 units of the Hansa. These aircraft were delivered to various flying clubs across India through the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation). These aircraft have logged in more than 4,000 flying hours. Department of Aerospace Engineering at IIT-Kanpur is still flying the Hansa Aircraft among 3 other powered aircraft.
The lack of orders killed the Hansa Project. The core issue was that the aircraft had a lot of potential in it but there was no Market Survey from NAL’s side. The agency had managed to produce a good machine but didn’t know how to market & sell it. By 2016 Dr. Jitendra Jadhav took over as Director at NAL. A professional agency was then hired to conduct the market survey & understand the requirement in the market. The team found that there could be a demand for about 100 aircraft in the next few years & that is when they decided to go ahead with the next-gen iteration of the Hansa, the Hansa-NG.
The centre approved the Hansa-NG project in 2018. NAL retrofitted a regular production Hansa with a glass cockpit & many other improvements (more on that later) & got its type certification from DGCA in 2019. The aircraft was also put on static display in Aero India 2019 as well. NAL then looped in Delhi-based firm, Mesco Aerospace Ltd as a production partner & jointly started the development of Hansa-NG.
Coming to the aircraft itself, the Hansa-NG is an exhaustively new aircraft. Most parts have been changed/upgraded as per modern standards. The pilot sits in a glass cockpit now which has smart multifunctional displays instead of dials & gauges. The lights have been upgraded to LEDs & the cockpit is heated with a bubble canopy design. The aircraft is equipped with IFR-compliant avionics. The engine is a highly efficient digitally controlled 100 bhp Rotax 912iSC engine which provides superior performance with increased range and endurance as compared to the older generation of Hansa. The flaps are electrically controlled for greater reliability. The landing gear has a cowl that covers the wheels. This decreases the aerodynamic drag & increases efficiency by a small margin. The nose landing gear is steerable now which makes it easier to handle on the tarmac during taxing.
The aircraft is 7.6 meters long with a wingspan of 10.5 meters. The crew of two personnel sit side by side in a cabin that is 1.07 meters wide. Thanks to the use of composites, it weighs just 540 kg. When loaded with 95 litres of internal fuel & crew, the maximum permissible all-up weight is 750 kg. Hansa-NG would need 467-meter runways to take off & 600-meter runway to land. The maximum cruising speed is 200 kmph & the stall speed is 80 kmph, below which the aircraft won’t generate enough lift to keep it in the air. The range has been extended to 1,100 km against 840 km in the older aircraft. The endurance has also increased from 4 hours in the previous model to 6 hours.
Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi (IGRUA) signed an MoU with CSIR-NAL as a launch customer of HANSA-NG for commercial pilot basic training. 30 Letters of Intent (LOI) from flying clubs across the nation have been received for the purchase of the aircraft. These will eventually replace the various light category aircraft used by flying schools such as Diamond DA-40 & TB-20 Trinidad. Each aircraft will cost 80 lakhs for the base variant & 1 crore for the top variant. Considering the foreign-built light aircraft, Hansa-NG will be a third of their price.
Not only for pilot training, but Hansa-NG can also be used for NCC air wing, coastal surveillance, hobby flying, research etc. Let’s hope what NAL has planned with respect to marketing, production & sales come to reality & the nation becomes self-reliant in yet another category in aviation.
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