Friday, October 16, 2009

Indians design Boeing / Airbus

Indian aviation expertise is now no longer confined to the cockpit and the crew. Domestic talent is now being tapped for the design and system integration of aircraft as well. Aerospace majors such as Airbus and Boeing have formed partnerships with the IISc, IITs and IIM-Bangalore to develop their next-generation air-birds, including A380s, A350s and the 787 Dreamliner.

Chief executive officer of Airbus Engineering Centre India (AECI) Eugen Welte told ET that their company had decided to set up operations in India to source talent and develop competency here. “Of the 130 people recruited here, 120 are engineers and the company will increase the number to 400 by 2012,” he said.

“As part of our internationalisation strategy, we will offshore 20% of our work by 2020, and India will get a big share of this followed by Russia and China”, said Mr Welte.

According to Joellle Willaume, head of the engineering division at AECI, the projects are focused on high-end technology. “Young people can bring in a lot in terms of innovation. We will be going to IISc and IITs for campus recruitment by December-end or early January to recruit more hands. We are also sending engineers to Europe to gain more expertise from teams there,” she said.

Arpita Sen, a 24-year-old graduate from IIT-Kanpur, is one of the young engineers, whose dream of joining the aerospace industry came true when Airbus recruited her. At AECI, Ms Sen plays a key role in engineering design of planes in the areas of system integration and flight control. “I have been applying all what I learnt at the IIT here”, says Ms Sen.

Tarun Jain, a 26-year-old graduate from IISc, is working at AECI on design work in fluid dynamics and aero-design framework. He is also assisting in the work of aero data production and airplane design. “We are working on designing an antenna to provide internet service in planes,” she said.

Srinivasan Bhaskaran (35), who leads a team of 20 people works on developing high-end tools to support the system design of Airbus in their day-to-day activity. “We work on weight reduction and maintaining redundancies on the A350,” he says.

Chugh Krishnan, a 32-year-old graduate from IISc is working on reducing the drag of the aircraft at AECI, which has influence on the fuel consumption of the aircraft and creating a comfortable environment such as ventilation for the passengers inside the plane.

Boeing, which started its Indian lab in Bangalore with 30 engineers, said that this lab was the third of its kind outside the US where engineers work on multiple projects involving advanced design, autonomous and network-centric systems, spacecraft designs and new structure and material technologies.

Boeing has stated that another 100 engineers will collaborate with its various projects being carried out with premier Indian academia and research and development (R&D) institutions. The Boeing lab will be partnering with IISc to develop and integrate advanced structural technologies to enable future aerospace structures. It will also be working with National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) for analysing and testing aircraft landing gear.

Mr Welte of Airbus said that due to availability of this talent pool, India can play a major role for future projects such as building planes which are 30% more efficient than today’s craft. “We are going to start strong R&D activity in India. We will look at future materials which can reduce fuel consumption, noise and weight”, Mr Welte said.

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