HYDERABAD, India — India’s state-run defense aircraft-maker Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) has announced plans to manufacture and operate two Dornier Do-228 aircraft, marking a foray into the civil aviation sector.                                                                       

“HAL’s board has finally sanctioned the manufacture of two civil Dornier aircraft,” a company official says. The financial details for the proposal and a time-frame for when it will become operational were not disclosed.

Since 1983, HAL has manufactured over 120 of the light, 14-seater and 19-seater Do-228 aircraft under license from original manufacturer RUAG at its Transport Aircraft Division in Kanpur in north India.

“We plan to upgrade these aircraft,” the official says. HAL is “exploring options to reduce costs to make the aircraft viable for internal civil operations and more export opportunities.”

The aircraft are already being used by the Indian air force, navy and coast guard services.  A few aircraft have been exported to Mauritius and the Seychelles.

“HAL last week supplied the first of the four ship-sets of Do-228-212 NG [Next Generation] to RUAG, as part of an export order for structural assemblies. We have manufactured and supplied the ship-set in a record time, ahead of schedule commitment,” says T. Suvarna Raju, chairman and managing director of HAL.

HAL also has signed an agreement with state-run Pawan Hans Ltd. to set up a maintenance facility in New Delhi for both defense and civil helicopters. The maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility is expected to be operational by June.

Last year, HAL was selected to develop, manufacture and maintain Russian Kamov Ka-226T helicopters to meet India’s defense requirements.

The facility to manufacture the helicopters will be set up at Tumakuru near Bengaluru in south India. “The unit will take up manufacturing and MRO activities for indigenously designed and developed light utility helicopter and other helicopters,” Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said in Parliament March 17.

The purchase and joint production of Ka-226T light multirole helicopters was approved by India’s Defense Acquisition Council last year but officially announced during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Russia in December.