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RTA model 1News from India points to a serious attempt to develop a regional turboprop.  As we have written recently, we see a surge of interest in turboprops, particularly at the 90-100 seat segment.  The planned Indian RTA is in that segment.

However the RTA has been gestating since 2010.  Nothing in India seems to work fast.  The French are still dealing with India on their Rafale – its been going on since January 2012.  If nothing else working with India teaches great patience.  Which is something western business struggles with. The RFI request focuses on engines.  Note the RFI is focused on turboprop engines but also fans for a stretch.  That means RTA could be following the Dornier 328 which came with the same engine choices. Lovely as that aircraft was, it didn’t get sufficient traction be a commercial success.  The request for both engine types complicates the project considerably.

We suspect this complexity will only serve to slow down the Indians even more.  With Indian proclivity for getting bogged down the project is likely to be less than the success it could be.  The poster child for this bogging down could be the Tejas fighter.  This project was started in the 1980’s and was only cleared for Indian air force service in January 2011.  While the Indian government might have endless patience, commercial operators do not.

Another interesting aspect of the RTA is the idea that the project will consist of commercial airliner and military freighter.  Notice also the inclusion of Russia’s Ilyushin and IRKUT in the project. Given Russia’s recent deal with Bombardier on their Q400, where does leave the RTA?  Note further the Q400 deal includes significant involvement from Ilyushin Finance. Its getting more complicated.

With India’s reputation for taking a long time to get anything done and a complicated set of partners, we suspect the engines to be offered for the RTA will be standard offerings from GE and PWC.  What’s more, by the time the RTA is ready for engines (we don’t see 2017) both engine makers will be focusing on the Q400 and ATR replacements.  India will just have to come along for the ride.

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