Hero Motors, India´s largest manufacturer of motorcycles, plans to move into the production of light aircraft as part of a joint venture with an unidentified German company.
Its subsidiary Hero Aviation is spearheading the move into the aerospace business, and it hopes to set up the facility at the company´s proposed 120Ha (300 acre) aerospace park in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
"Hero Motors recently formed its new venture Hero Aviation with a vision to diversify the company´s product portfolio. Very soon, the company will be joining hands with a world leader in light sport aircraft to set up a complete manufacturing and maintenance, repair and overhaul facility," says Hero Motors.
A formal announcement is imminent, and the company could begin work on the facility in the first half of 2009 if the government gives it permission to set up a special economic zone in Madhya Pradesh. India has been encouraging its companies to set up these zones, which enjoy tax breaks and other incentives, to boost the country´s manufacturing base. If the project takes off, it will be India´s first production facility for light aircraft. The country´s general aviation industry has grown steadily over the past few years, with a boom in its air transport market leading to more Indians wanting to become commercial pilots or acquire a private pilot´s licence.
Manufacturers say that India is fast becoming one of the key markets for both business jets and light aircraft in Asia. Its booming economy and poor road infrastructure had led to several companies and individuals placing orders for both over the last few years. Subsequently, general aviation and business aviation has grown rapidly despite India´s extremely restrictive aerospace regulations and a lack of investment in airport facilities. The number of companies offering corporate jet charter and management services has also grown and one of these, New Delhi-based Club One Air, also bought 10 very light jets from Eclipse Aviation earlier this year.
The Indian company will receive four Eclipse 500s this year and the remaining six in 2009. Its managing director Manav Singh says that the company hopes to introduce the concept of air charters and fractional ownership to India´s bourgeoning middle class through these aircraft.