Indian aerospace and the civil aviation sector are one of the fastest growing sectors with India drastically increasing its hold on the world market and likely to become the third largest aerospace industry while it acquired that position in the civil aviation sector in 2021. India is expected to spend over US$ 150—225 billion in the next decade to ramp its aerospace industry with a forecast that it is expected to witness an astronomical growth to the industry.
Indian aerospace industry dates back to 1940 when Walchand Hirachand set-up the predecessor to the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) called Hindustan Aircraft at Bangalore. It had a modest beginning of building and overhauling monoplanes. But, it made history in the country’s aerospace sector when a Hindustan Aircraft Ltd built ‘Curtiss Hawk P36’ took to skies on July 31,1942. With the onset of the World War II, the establishment was taken over by the allied forces. Hindustan Aircraft was given a major infrastructural boost. Over the course of the war it was converted to a mega aircraft overhauling centre by the allied forces. The organization became one of the biggest aircraft overhauling centres in the Eastern Hemisphere.
Soon after independence the organization was taken over by the Indian government. The evolving Asian arms race meant India had to master the complex weapon manufacturing cycles to meet the needs of its armed forces. India set up multiple state-run Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) corporations to promote defence manufacturing industrial bases. These PSU’s were designated as manufacturing hubs and they were to be supported by DRDO laboratories.
Having become the third-largest civil aviation market in the world in 2021, it recorded an air traffic of 131 million passengers in 2016, of which 100 million were domestic passengers. The largest airline by international passenger traffic was Jet Airways which transported over 10 million passengers in and out of India in 2016, followed by Air India and AI Express (8.8 million). In third place was Emirates (5.46 million), which is the largest foreign airline operating in India.
As the nation celebrates its 75th year of Independence it is indeed relevant what the President of leading aircraft company Boeing Salil Gupte says about the aerospace sector in India that “there is only much more to look forward to as we count down to being in India@100.”
With Boeing being one of the major companies supplying aircraft to both defence and civil sector in India, what Gupte says about India in this sector assumes added significance, “We look back at our own 75-plus years in the country and feel very proud to be part of India’s aerospace and defence journey. Our relationship spans a network of more than 280 Make in India suppliers from whom the company sources manufacturing output worth $1 billion annually, and our JV, Tata Boeing Aerospace Ltd., helping make India an integral part of Boeing’s global supply chain. Our presence in India also includes deep investments beyond manufacturing, in engineering, through 3,500 engineers and technologists at the Boeing India Engineering & Technology Centre (BIETC) in Bengaluru and Chennai, and in training and skill development that harness the power of Indian talent to Make in India, and engineer and innovate in India, for India, and for the world.”
Boeing’s relationship with India goes back to the 1940s, when the Indian Air Force enlisted two Boeing aircrafts: the T-6 Texan, or Harvard Advanced Trainer, made by North American Aviation, and the C-47 Skytrain military transport, a military variant of the DC-3, made by McDonnell Douglas. Today, Boeing continues to play a key role in India’s evolving commercial and armed forces aviation. Today, Boeing India has 4,000 employees, and more than 7,000 people who work on dedicated supply chain jobs with Indian suppliers across manufacturing, engineering and IT sectors.
With the government allowing 100% FDI for setting up MRO centres, flying training schools and technology training centres and this coupled with the largely available skilled labour base has successfully stimulated the aerospace industry. Global vendors have drastically increased the work share with Indian partners and this has helped India to make a mark in the global logistics supply chain. HAL today produces almost half of the Airbus A-320 forward passenger doors. HCL, Infosys and Wipro are leading software solution providers for Airbus and Boeing.
Tata Advanced Systems, Mahindra Aerospace and Aequs are leading Tier-1 designers and manufacturers of aero structures. Tata Advanced Systems is a leading partner of Boeing and is producing various aeronautical systems. Larsen & Toubro, India’s leading defence equipment manufacturer is working closely with European companies. More than 2000 small and medium aerospace enterprises are working towards making India a self-reliant aerospace power.