The proposed Tata-AgustaWestland’s upcoming helicopter cabin manufacturing unit in Adibatla, Hyderabad is likely to once again miss its operation deadline. It is learnt that the Defence Ministry on Wednesday asked FIPB to keep in abeyance its nod for the Tata Sons-AgustaWestland, which is under cloud over allegations of bribery in the IAF contract for 12 VIP chopper deal.
Sources said the joint venture — Indian Rotorcraft Ltd (IRL) — is going slow on the project due to ‘unfavourable market conditions’. Originally, the assembly of AW119 helicopters was to begin in 2011 but was extended by April, 2014.
“Things are not moving at the pace they should be if the project has to commence operations from April. They are going slow,” a source close to the development told Express.
S Ramadorai, Chairman, Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL) who was here last month refused to comment on the project's progress. AgustaWestland didn't respond to queries regarding its commitment to the project.
It may be noted that the Finmeccanica government-owned helicopter maker was recently slapped with a show cause notice by the Ministry of Defence for violating the terms of the contract and the pre-integrity pact for procurement of 12 VVIP choppers. It landed in controversies both in India and Italy following allegations of paying kickbacks.
“Since we didn't allot land for the project directly, we don't get frequent updates. They (companies) approach only if they run into problems getting relevant approvals,” said Pradeep Chandra, Principal Secretary, Industries & Commerce, Government of Andhra Pradesh. He added that the government allotted land to GMR Group’s Aviation SEZ, which in turn provided land for IRL to set up the cabin production facility.
In 2009, AgustaWestland signed an MoU with the Tatas to set up a final assembly line for AW119 helicopters for the worldwide market.
Incidentally, the Tatas, which signed another similar pact with Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation for S-92 helicopter cabin manufacturing in 2009, have rolled out its 50th cabin from the facility in Hyderabad.