India's first indigenously designed civil aircraft made outside of the public sector is nearing its finish line and the first one could be tested by Diwali this year.
Developed jointly by the National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL) and Mahindra Aerospace, the NM5 - as the aircraft is called - could cost anywhere between $350,000 and $400,000 (Rs 1.6-1.8 cr) - roughly the price of luxury car Ferrari. A prototype of the five-seater plane is in the final stage of testing.
"We are very close to launching and flying NM5 and if everything goes well that could happen in less than six weeks. At this time we have handed it (plane) over to engineers and flight-testing," said Hemant Luthra, director, Mahindra Group.
"Now its beyond us managers and it now depends on the confidence of the test pilot."
Mahindra Aerospace is a 50-50 venture between Mahindras and NAL, and production is expected at its Bangalore facility after the plane is tested.The NAL has already developed India's first civil aircraft, Saras, which had its first flight in 2004. The Indian Air Force is keen to use the aircraft which has been bogged down by delays.
The cost of development of NM5 is around $10 to $15 million (Rs 45-68 crore), which is considered low by industry standards. The joint venture expects to sell anywhere around 75 to 100 planes per annum five years after the start of commercial production.
Mahindra Aerospace, which recently acquired two Australian firms, is also looking to manufacture eight and ten seater aircraft- dubbed GA8 and GA10-in its Bangalore facility expected to be operational by 2012.
However, the manufacturing is expected to start in Bangalore plant only by 2014 as some approvals remain to be taken.
Also the company is looking to export the eight and ten seater planes to China.