The conference hall at Aircraft Research and Design Centre (ARDC) was packed to its capacity. In conversation with Mathrubhumi were some of the bright aerospace engineers and designers of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) sharing their story of struggle, sacrifice and success building their dream flying machine -- the Hindustan Turbo Trainer-40 (HTT-40).

Amidst readying the HTT-40 PT-1 for its maiden sky party at the upcoming Aero India-17 and PT-2 for the static display, the team was enthusiastic in sharing some of the untold stories building the BTA (Basic Trainer Aircraft). Interestingly, the average age of HTT-40 team is only 35 years.

Leading from the front was the passionate plane-maker in Prashant Singh Bhadoria, Deputy Project Manager of HTT-40. The promising youngster hailing from Nanded, was humble enough to take-off by saying but for the commitment shown by his team, HTT-40 wouldn’t have reached a stage it has jettisoned now.

“The going was tough. Really tough. We had to motivate ourselves all the time. But, we had the full backing of our seniors and the top management. I think in military aviation the challenges are multitude. We have buried the past and believed in the future. The rest is history now,” says Prashant, whose aggression and passion were one notch up than Virat Kholi!

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Prashant Singh Bhadoria, Deputy Project Manager of HTT-40 (left) and Suresh Kumar, Head of Aerodynamics Group | Photo: Balachandra, HAL

 

Prashant-Suresh combo inspired the team

Prashant represents the new face of HAL, who believes in their strengths rather than brooding over what a DPSU is not all about. Most importantly, it was evident that Team HTT-40 owned HAL. Rather, they said they are HAL.

“Through this project we got challenges and opportunities in equal measure. The learning was phenomenal. The team work was outstanding. The sacrifices were innumerable. And the result, was priceless,” says Prashant, who hands over the baton to the rest of the team members.

Prashant’s boss and HTT-40 Project Manager Suresh Kumar, who is also the Head of Aerodynamics Group, was another face of HAL that was refreshing. Suresh, the senior-most member, who was part of Kiran, IJT, Saras and Tejas projects, says his team emerged successfully from the jaws of defeat.

“I will see HTT-40 in IAF Squadron before retirement. I too learned a lot being part of this young team. It not only knocked off some 10-15 years from my life, but gave a new perspective to missions. The team’s enthusiasm is infectious,” says Suresh.

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HTT-40 team members say the Suresh-Prashant combo set many benchmarks in project management.

Sumesh, A S, Senior Manager with Structural Assembly while sharing the challenges of fuel tank assembly and engine installation, said the project demolished the disconnect between the designers and shop floor. “We bridged the gap and there was better synergy at all levels,” he adds.

Pawan Gowra, Manager, Sheet Metal Shop, says concurrent manufacturing was the key to the mission.

“It helped reducing time and we could assess the actual requirement at a faster pace,” says Pawan. “And, getting home-cooked food and sharing with all too helped to increase the bonding,” he adds.

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Sanjiv Shukla, General Manager, ARDC | Photo: Balachandra, HAL

 

Only mission mattered to the team: Sanjiv Shukla

Sanjiv Shukla, General Manager, ARDC, felt the young lot had no fear in taking on the challenges head on.

“The HTT-40 team has set many new working philosophies that will be difficult to be broken now. They have showed all of us, mission mattered all the time,” says Shukla.

Ajith K, Deputy Manager, Electrical Design, said he couldn’t believe when HTT-40 flew for the first time.

“There was joy, satisfaction, relief and belief when our baby was flying,” he said. Ajith also narrated how the team members worked for 20 hours some days even dispelling fear of being hit by dengue, which is prevalent in Bengaluru.

“Some of the team members were worried about mosquito bites. And, we told them mosquitoes that bite in the night won’t spread dengue,” Ajith said, with team bursting into laughter.

The team played a rare video of HAL Chairman T Suvarna Raju addressing them from with the HTT-40 cockpit late night. “It was truly inspiring,” adds Ajith.

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Prashant Singh Bhadoria | Photo: Balachandra, HAL

 

If your aircraft is talking, then you don’t have to talk: Prashant

Prashant chips in again saying aggression was the key while taking tough decisions.

“You have to be ready to take risks. We had to prove our detractors wrong. If your aircraft is talking, then you don’t have to talk. We are now very focused on the spin and stall trials as well,” says Prashant.

Chandrashekar V, Senior Manager, Aerodynamics, says they could predict the thrust and drag characteristics of the aircraft perfectly before the first flight.

“We had detailed CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) studies. We were able accurately assess many results in advance,” he says.

Jeevan says unique procurement methods sticking to the rules helped the project, while Gopalakrishnan terms the HTT-40 experience as one of the most inspiring lessons in his life.

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D K Venkatesh, Director, (Engineering, R&D), HAL | Photo: Balachandra, HAL

 

Failure is important tool for designer: Venkatesh

D K Venkatesh, Director, (Engineering, R&D), HAL, predicts the need for HTT-40s in large numbers in future.

“I always told the boys not to reinvent, instead synergise. Failure is the most important tool for the designer. This project faced many challenges and yet we came out with flying colours,” says Venkatesh.

HAL Chairman T Suvarna Raju, who often drove to the shop floor even on Sundays, without any prior notice, says he was moved by the commitment and dedication shown by the HTT-40 team.

 “The brave lot, they are. They never got tired. It will be their Aero India this time. And, we are all proud of the HTT-40 team,” says Raju.

 (The writer is the Content Consultant with Mathrubhumi (English Online) and tweets @writetake.)