'Aircraft concepts to come from East'

Last Updated: Sat, Jun 30, 2012 04:59 hrs

The concept plane, Airbus' vision of flight for 2050, was the centre of focus at the Bangalore leg of the Indo-German Urban Mela. Its concept cabin, which is recyclable, can be turned transparent with the flick of a switch. It also boasts of self-cleaning material, grown from sustainable plant fibres that reduce maintenance and wastage. To top it all, the cabin has an integrated neural network that recognises passengers, and adapts to their needs.

And, this marvel of technology might be partially developed right here, in Bangalore.

"With the aviation market moving from the western hemisphere to the East, the concepts of aircraft design should be coming from the East," Kiran Rao, president, Airbus India, told Business Standard. "We have decided our think tank for determining how aeroplanes should be, how these should interact with airports and passengers and how pilots should interact with the craft would be headquartered in Bangalore and be headed by an Indian," he said.

Airbus sources software and engineering services from its facility here. Recently, it had set up an innovation cell, expected to be operational by the year-end.

"While this would not be an engineering centre, it would work with Airbus units for developing designs and concepts," said Rao. He added the company's investment was based on long-term commitment and cooperation, which outweighed any offset obligation. Today, about 2,000 people work on Airbus projects in India. The company estimates Indian airlines would purchase 1,043 aircraft over the next 20 years. India, therefore, would be vital to the company's plans.

The Airbus Engineering Centre here, which employs about 270 locally-trained staff, is a fully-integrated unit, focusing on flight physics and structure, systems simulations and other key segments in designing high-performance aircraft.

Operational since mid-2007, the staff strength of the engineering centre is expected to rise to 450 over the next three years.

Airbus also has a training centre here, focusing on maintenance and pilot training. A second such centre is scheduled to be opened in Gurgaon. "It has been a long-standing need of airlines in the North," Rao told Business Standard.

"We are working with EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company NV) and Air India, along with private companies, to establish a maintenance, repair and operations facility for Airbus aircraft," said Rao.

Amber Dubey, partner and head (aviation), KPMG India, said with these engagements, the company could "leverage the cost arbitrage offered by Indian channel partners and create significant goodwill in India by creating local jobs and contributing to revenue and government taxes." He added design and engineering work in India was 20-40 per cent cheaper, owing to low manpower costs. This, he said, was a significant driver

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