Bengaluru, Jan 25: A prototype of Saras flew for about 40 minutes over here on Wednesday for the first time in nearly a decade, kindling hopes of revival of a homegrown civil aircraft programme in the country.
The Saras (PT-1N) plane was piloted by Wing Commander B. Panicker and U.P. Singh, pilots of the Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE), the Indian Air Force's elite school for test pilots.
"The aircraft designed and developed by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research's National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) took off at 11 a.m. from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd airport and flew at a maximum height of 8,500 feet in a textbook flight," a statement from Bengaluru-based CSIR-NAL said.
The performance of the aircraft would be assessed over 20 test flights and the data collected during the flights would be used to finalise the design of the production version of the aircraft, it said.
The 14-seater civil aircraft programme, named after the Indian crane Saras, was conceived in the 1990s as a joint project between India and Russia.
NAL took it on its own when Myasischev Design Bureau, the Russian state agency for civilian planes, backed out due to the financial crisis that emerged after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Scientists at NAL first flew the plane in May 2004.
In 2009, a prototype of Saras on a test flight crashed on Bengaluru outskirts killing three Indian Air Force pilots.
Since then, the project has been in limbo till the government sanctioned around Rs 100 crore last year to revive it.