Maharashtra signs Rs 35,000 cr venture with Mumbai pilot who built aircraft on his rooftop
Months after the six-seater aircraft built by Thrust Aircraft Pvt Ltd was cleared to fly by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Maharashtra government inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the company promoted by Amol Yadav to set up an indigenous factory for smaller aircraft, and develop Palghar as an aviation hub.
The state government entered into a joint venture with Yadav even before the aircraft he built was officially tested. The joint venture between the Maharashtra Industries Development Corporation (MIDC) and Thrust Aircraft is worth Rs35,000 crore. Under the MoU signed at the ‘Magnetic Maharashtra’ investors’ summit, the state will give Yadav’s firm 157 acres of land at Kelwe in Palghar district, roughly 140km north of Mumbai.
Yadav, who was a commercial aircraft pilot, said he is “delighted” with the development and “mindful of the responsibility” ahead.
He admitted the six-seater aircraft his company built has still not been tested. “We are awaiting a few components. They have come to India and are with the Customs. Once they are fitted [into the aircraft] we will have the official test flight in March or April,” Yadav said.
Experts have reservations
Aviation experts questioned the rationale behind the joint venture.
Aviation expert and former Air Force pilot Vipul Saxena said the government should have offered a similar opportunity to other enthusiasts eager to design or build aircraft.
“Technically, such proposals should have been evaluated by a team of experts and with due diligence,” said Saxena.
“Even if it was the case of promoting young minds or indigenous production of aircraft, the government should have given a similar opportunity to others as well,” he said.
Saxena added, “I am not denying his dedication. They [DGCA] cannot approve the design unless it has been copied with only few alterations in pre-existing design. There are set guidelines by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). There are world-class labs where prototypes of planes are tested on various parameters. The government should have set up an aviation committee through the ministry of civil aviation to evaluate the proposal in terms of return on investment (ROI) if it is being funded for commercial purposes.”
Yadav said there were two parts to the MoU signed — one has to be fulfilled by him, while the other by the government. “I will be responsible for building the aircraft and appointing an agency to build the facility on the alloted land, while the government will provide the funds for basic amenities, etc,” he said.
Making of the aircraft
Yadav spent six years building the six-seater plan, which now bears the registration number VT–NMD — after the initials of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. A resident of Charkop, Yadav sold his house and spent Rs4 crore to build the airplane on the rooftop of a building in Kandivli. In February 2016, it was put on display at an exhibition at the ‘Make in India’ week. Currently, the aircraft is parked at the airport.
The plane is made of aluminium, is 10.8 feet high, and was put together under the guidance of retired Air Marshal Murali Sundaram, and an advisory panel of IIT-B professors.
Although he managed to build the aircraft, the aviation ministry was not keen to allow him to conduct trials. After he was denied permission, Yadav petitioned Fadnavis and Modi. According to Yadav, there were bureaucratic roadblocks even after the PMO intervened for him to get the required permissions.
“After a long battle of six years, the aircraft was finally registered in November 2017, after a follow-up by CM and with the help of the PMO,” Yadav said.
According to Rasmikant Yadav, managing director, Thrust Aircraft Private Limited, and Anmol’s elder brother, the government of Maharashtra allotted land on both sides of the Kelwe Road station, which would be handed over to the MIDC within a month. “ After getting the necessary permission, we plan to construct the plant within six months,” said Yadav. “The prime minister is likely to inaugurate the plant,” Rashmikant said.
(With inputs from Ram Parmar)