Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saras Accident Report Sets Back Development Of 14-Seat Light Aircraft

Aviation Daily Apr 26 , 2010 , p. 17
Neelam Mathews

Findings released by the Indian Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) following the crash 13 months ago of a National Aerospace Laboratories-designed (NAL),14-seat light transport aircraft have revealed several safety lapses.

The report found that “there is no meaningful and effective supervision and control on the Saras project by DGCA.” The findings make it increasingly clear that the design and development of the Saras, intended for domestic use by commercial passenger and cargo operators, will be delayed.

The crash killed three Indian air force pilots.The aircraft was powered by two turboprop engines from Pratt & Whitney.

While there was no evidence of any defect or malfunction in the aircraft due to maintenance procedures, there were general controllability issues in the accident. The report says an incorrect engine relight procedure devised by the designer, and adopted by the crew at insufficient altitude, led to rapid loss of altitude and abnormal behavior of the aircraft. Other contributing factors include lack of crew coordination and cockpit procedures, handling of the controls, non-aborting of flight by the crew in coordination with the flight test director after failure of first relight attempt, and devising relight procedures by NAL without consulting the propeller manufacturer.

The findings point out there was inadequate monitoring of the test program by a NAL/Indian air force management committee. Further, NAL’s subcontractor, Aircraft Design and Engineering, did most of the design and development, including flight testing analysis. “This is not in line with DGCA approval given to the contractor,” says the report.

On the procedure given by P&W, the report said it "lacked clarity" and did not give any advice with respect to free turbine configuration, and did not clearly spell out what to do in the event of an engine shut down. The report also said the Emergency Locator Transmitters were not installed on the load-bearing, primary structure as per standard aeronautical practice, but were installed on a suspended platform attached to the fuselage.

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