Saturday, 8 February 2014

Dornier-228: A Robust Surveillance Aircraft

India today handed over a Dornier-228 surveillance aircraft to Seychelles. Manufactured by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the Dornier-228 has proved itself as a robust surveillance flying machine. HAL manufactures this aircraft under licence agreement with the erstwhile Dornier GmbH of Germany at its Transport Aircraft Division, Kanpur, and has world-wide unfettered sales and marketing rights. 

Along with the airframe, engines and several of the systems and avionics are also produced in house at various Divisions of HAL ensuring single window life-time support to the customers. The cockpit is designed to accommodate two crew members and is fitted with duplicate controls. The cabin can accommodate 19 passengers in commuter configuration.

HAL-DO-228 owing to its highly efficient design philosophy and world class workmanship has been configured for variety of roles. It can be used as Regional Airliner, Air Taxi, for VIP/Executive Transport, Maritime Surveillance, Reconnaissance, Intelligence warfare and for Troop Transport, Para Jumping, Pollution detection and control, Search and Rescue, Casualty evacuation/Ambulance, Cargo and Logistics Support, Calibration of Airport  Nav-aids, Geographical surveys, Aerial photography, Anti-submarine roles and as Observer training. Owing to these features, this aircraft is the proven workhouse of Indian Air Force, Coast Guard and Navy. National Coast Guard of Mauritius also utilizes two HAL supplied DO-228s for surveillance of their coast line and VIP transport.

The versatility of HAL-DO-228s are due to several in-built features-highest fuel carrying capacity in its class (2850 litres) due to integral fuel tanks in wings, low structural weight ensured through use of advanced composite materials, high wing design for unobstructed view and radar coverage, wide wheel base for better stability, short take-off and landing capability. 

The aircraft can take off from around 700 m and land within 575 m essentially required for operations from short and semi-prepared airfields, sturdy landing gears, rectangular cabin offering more head space for passengers and mounting space for equipment in case of special mission configuration as opposed to circular cabin, low floor level and wide door for easy loading/unloading of cargo, flight openable roller door, four wing hard points for mounting of external loads upto 1030 kg, optimum performance at normal cruising altitude for short haul applications enabled by the revolutionary design of wing aerofoil.

HAL has fitted several role specific equipment on this aircraft to meet the specialized requirement of customers. The maritime aircraft is equipped with combination of 360 deg Surveillance Radar, Forward Looking Infra Red System, Electronic Surveillance Measures System, Pollution Detection and Control Equipment, Satellite Communication, Data Link, Speech Secrecy, Traffic Collision and Avoidance System, Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System and host of other customer specified sensors.

HAL-DO-228 production in India was launched with Vayudoot, the first regional airlines of the country. Vayudoot extensively utilized its fleet of 10 aircraft covering almost all parts of the country and at one point of time achieved highest utilization of DO-228s among all carriers throughout the world.  Vayudoot DO-228s were configured to carry 19 passengers as standard fitment, a small galley and functional toilet.

The world over it has been experienced that for a sustainable growth in passenger traffic, development of regional air routes is of paramount importance. Hub and spoke network is an established model wherein the regional traffic is built at selected hubs through regional spokes. The hubs thus created would fall on trunk routes catered by large airlines. The regional routes are best served initially by a smaller turbo-prop aircraft of around 19 seater category.

Regional air routes in India are now again poised for growth. HAL-DO-228s are the ideal aircraft for regional applications supported with previous experience, availability of aircraft and its maintenance infrastructure within the country. Discussions are underway with prospective operators.

To keep the aircraft contemporary with latest technology developments HAL continuously strives through its strong research and design base, to develop and integrate new modifications. The methodology ensures obsolescence free product, ease of maintenance and high serviceability for the operator. The aircraft cockpit is being reconstructed with fully digital glass cockpit and will be on display during Aero India in Bangalore scheduled from 6th–11th Feb 2013. In addition several other modifications like digital auto-pilot, upgraded avionics and other systems are also on the cards.

Fuelled by the growth prospects of this aircraft, HAL has also set eyes on export market. While the full aircraft structures are already being exported to Germany for assembly and supply to world-wide market, efforts are underway to achieve direct exports. The company is making efforts to exploit conducive military markets in Mauritius, Nepal, Vietnam, South Africa, Afghanistan and Columbia. Efforts are also to penetrate civil export markets that are suited for HAL-DO-228s.

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