De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd., a leading manufacturer of turboprop planes, is aiming to win 80% of India’s small-plane market as the country seeks to bolster connectivity in far-flung corners and over rugged terrain.
The company is expecting India to have as many as 120 small aircraft that seat less than 20 passengers in the next 10 years, Yogesh Garg, the manufacturer’s Asia Pacific sales director, said in an interview in New Delhi on Tuesday on the sidelines of the Airline Economics Growth Frontiers India conference.
Small planes are key for India, the world’s fastest-growing aviation market, to connect tiny towns, hilly areas and islands that have a budding population of first-time flyers. Airbus SE estimates India will need 2,210 aircraft by 2040, with most of them being smaller jets.
De Havilland will face competition from the 19-seater Dornier 228 aircraft. The Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. made-in-India plane is used by the armed forces, while Alliance Air has one. Another rival is Textron Aviation Inc., with regional carrier IndiaOne Air using its nine-seater Cessna Grand Caravan EX.
Better access to regional travel could help revive tourism and air traffic in India after the pandemic gutted travel. The government has allocated 45 billion rupees ($544 million) under a regional connectivity program to develop 100 inadequately served airports, heliports and water aerodromes, in addition to opening 1,000 new routes by next year. It is also giving subsidies to airlines to offer passengers cheaper fares on regional routes.
Budget carrier SpiceJet Ltd. is in discussions with De Havilland for five Twin Otter seaplanes, typically found in the Maldives shuttling tourists to resorts. SpiceJet could deploy the seaplanes, carrying 19 passengers, to reach remote parts of the country lacking runways and ground transport like Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Garg said.
SpiceJet, De Havilland’s top customer in India, currently operates 32 Dash-8 Q400 turboprop planes, which seat between 78 and 90 people, he said. IndiGo, India’s biggest airline, has a fleet of 78 ATR small planes, a joint venture between Airbus SE and Leonardo SpA of Italy.
A spokesperson for SpiceJet didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Regional carriers are also expanding their fleet of small planes. FlyBig has placed an order for 10 Twin Otter aircraft, with the first two potentially being delivered by April, Garg said. Gujarat’s aviation infrastructure agency could add amphibious Twin Otters by the end of this year for routes such as the Sabarmati riverfront to the Rann of Kuchchh, a salt marsh popular among tourists in the western Indian state.
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