Involving the private sector

Print edition : January 02, 1999
RAVI SHARMA

AMONG the participants at Aero India 98 were some companies whose relatively low profile at the air show belied their status as suppliers of crucial sub-assemblies and accessories to the Indian aviation industry. Many of them were members of the Society of Indian Aerospace Technologies and Industries (SIATI).

SIATI was established in 1991 at the initiative of Dr. C.G. Krishnadas Nair, now Chairman of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). It was intended to bridge the gap between research and development and industry and, in general, to further aerospace technology and industries in India. It was also aimed to encourage potential entrepreneurs and assist them in setting up medium- and small-scale industries that would manufacture aerospace components, systems and materials.

Krishnadas Nair said: "It is not enough for HAL alone to play a role in the aviation sector; the private sector must also contribute. Elsewhere in the world a large number of companies make aircraft parts; it is only in India that it is the sole preserve of one company. This should change. And SIATI is trying to play the role of a catalyst."

SIATI also provides a forum for interaction between industry and users such as HAL, the Indian Air Force (IAF), the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Aeronautical Development Agency and also between industry and R&D and academic institutions. A non-profit, non-commercial organisation, SIATI conducts seminars (as it did at Aero India 98) and collaborates with similiar Indian and global societies, trusts and professional institutions.

The Society has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the French Groupement des Industries Francaises Aeronautiques et Spatiales (GIFAS) for technical collaboration on R&D, technology transfer, manufacture under licence and co-production. A team from GIFAS visited Bangalore and held talks with many of SIATI's members on areas of cooperation.

According to Krishnadas Nair, SIATI has similiar arrangements with the AECMA (European Association of Aerospace Industries) and is working to finalise a tie-up with the Society of British Aerospace Companies.

Members of SIATI have helped indigenise a number of materials and components used in aeronautical and aerospace applications. Among these items are metallic, non-metallic and readymade materials, electrical or electronic items, adhesives, paints and varnishes, sealants, rubber hoses and other rubber parts and ground handling and ground support equipment. For example, Avi-Oil, a SAITI member and a joint venture between Nyco SA of France, the Indian Oil Corporation and Balmer Lawrie, manufactures aviation lubricants (synthetic esters) and offers technical service to customers. Until now all such oils had to be imported. According to Avi-Oil's chief executive officer J.R. Nanda, by manufacturing the lubricants indigenously the country saves Rs.50-60 crores a year.

Systems Aids, a Bangalore-based company, has developed in-house import substitutes for the non-destructive testing of aerospace materials. The technique used is either the acoustic impact test or the ultrasonic test system.

Another SIATI member, the Chennai-based High Energy Batteries, which has supplied the IAF with over 19,000 silver zinc batteries (for autonomous starting of the MiG aircraft engine and for emergency power supply), has offered for the first time in India indigenously developed Fibre Technology Nickel Cadmium batteries. These batteries, which are used in the aircraft starting trolley, are awaiting type approval by the IAF.

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