Three senior Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots were killed when the prototype of a multi-role light transport aircraft, Saras, crashed near Sesha-girihalli, 40 km south of Bangalore, on Friday.
The Saras is developed by the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL). The crash signals a major setback for NAL’s plans to design and manufacture transport jets.
“This comes as a shock. It is quite disturbing because the second prototype was doing fairly well. The IAF has shown interest and had issued a letter of intent for 15 aircraft,” Roddam Narasimha, former director of NAL, said.
A.R. Upadhyaya, current director of NAL, said he didn’t know the cause of the crash as he was away in Hyderabad.
A source said the pilots were identified as Wing Commanders T. Praveen and D. Shah and Squadron Leader Eliyaraja.
Two prototypes of the aircraft are currently flying. Both the prototypes had featured in Aero India shows. Currently work is on to reduce the weight of the aircraft by 500 kg and the production standard aircraft is expected to have its first flight this year.