BANGALORE: In a setback to the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL) Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) programme, the Prototype Trainer Two (PT2), landed on its belly at the HAL airport here on Wednesday evening after a routine aerobatic sortie. The programme is already delayed by four years, The sortie was undertaken as part of the preparations for the next week’s “Aero India 2009” air show here. The aircraft was piloted by HAL’s Executive Director - Chief Test Pilot (Fixed Wing) Squadron Leader Baldev Singh (retd.) and Wing Commander C. Subramaniam, an Indian Air Force fighter pilot on deputation to HAL.
Eyewitnesses said the aircraft appeared to do a normal touch-down, rolled and then the wheels started retracting, forcing it to land on its belly. Landing speed Initial indications are that the landing speed of the aircraft could have been a shade too fast, prompting the pilots to try and retract the undercarriage, and do a touch and go as the aircraft was likely to overshoot the runway. There were suggestions that one of the tyres could have burst during landing, resulting in brake failure. A court of inquiry, headed by Benji Mammen, HAL’s Chief of Project, Light Combat Aircraft, has been set up to look into the incident. There was structural damage to the undercarriage and belly, the doors and one of the wing tips. HAL’s only chance of showcasing the IJT at the air show now rests on PT1, the prototype that suffered a crash in February 2007 (during Aero India 2007) when the canopy opened just before take-off.
The PTI, which has not been flown since then, was recently fitted with the Russian AL-55I engine. While one ground run with the AL-55I (‘I’ for Indian) is over it is yet to get airborne.
Meant to be the backbone of the IAF’s combat pilot training programme, the IJT programme was sanctioned by the government in 1999. Making its first flight in March 2003, it was meant to replace the IAF’s workhorse, Kiran. Around 225 HJT-36s are to be produced, serving the IAF, the Navy as well as the Air Force’s Surya Kiran aerobatic team.