BENGALURU: Despite a steady need for civilian helicopters, India only has 250 of them. According to experts at a panel discussion organised at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, Indian and international companies manufacturing helicopters face a few impediments in their work in India.
“Only HAL makes helicopters in India,” Dr Rajnish Mallick, a post-doctoral fellow at the Department of Aerospace Engineering in Indian Institute of Science (IISc), told Express.
Dr Dineshkumar Harursampath, Faculty at the Dept of Aerospace Engineering, said, “The utility of helicopters is increasing. Though we underutilise them, they are very useful in natural calamities to airlift people and loads as they can hover or stay put at a place, can land and take off vertically and lift loads like a crane.”
He added, “Import duties and costs are very high. If we make them in India, costs will come down and people will be able to use them. It will be a win-win situation for makers and buyers.”
So what are the factors that come in the way of international companies and Indian ones from making helicopters in India?
At the discussion, a part of the Fourth Asian-Australian Rotorcraft Forum, Dr Catherine Kilmain, Executive VP of Engineering at Bell Helicopters and Jean Brice Dumont, Executive VP of Airbus Helicopters blamed the bureaucracy and great delays in matters pertaining to the Indian government for not being able to make helicopters in India yet. As Jean said, “It is getting better and we have hope. We have been frustrated (and this is an understatement) by the speed of discussions and tenders.”
Dr Vaman Kulkarni, Director of Honeywell, India, said, “ We have not been able to manufacture helicopters in India yet because of the high taxation rates. We have had discussions with the Indian government and hope to make helicopters here.”
A V M K Sridharan, founder and director of the Rotary Wing Society of India, said, “Cheetah and Chetak helicopters made by HAL sold in the civilian sector of India too. Dhruv helicopter did not sell as much in civil sector. Only 15 were sold to ONGC.” Shrikumari, an aviation expert said, “Dhruv was sold to civil/army/coastguards etc. ONGC or the coastguards do not require the high-altitude functions in Dhruv and need not pay for those. This will reduce costs. We may do that in the next project.”
Guillame Capato, the Head of the Mahindra Aerospace Industrialisation team said, “We have many opportunities for youngsters and new graduates in the company.” Bell Helicopters and Airbus Helicopters agreed that they would provide opportunities to young Indian talent to join them and learn.
Dr M Vijayakumar, Head, Rotary Wing Research and Development Centre, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, India, said they are going to start manufacturing special helicopters in a 300-acre facility in Tumakuru.