At the Global Aviation Summit in Mumbai on Tuesday, civil aviation minister Suresh Prabhu said India is on its way to becoming an aircraft manufacturing hub in the near future and that very soon, one would be able to fly in a commercial aircraft that has been built in India.

Speaking at the event, representatives from leading aviation and aerospace manufacturing companies from across the globe seemed to double down on the minister’s bet, stressing on the scope for growth here and the need to focus on India’s market.

Anand Stanley, president and managing director of Airbus India, said Airbus was focussing on three key regions—the U.S., China, and India. “This is not just a market any more for Airbus, this is a base,” he said, adding that the company was not only manufacturing crucial components here, but also designing brand new aircraft within India.

For Justin Mills, vice president, Rolls-Royce, India offers a unique opportunity to take a giant leap in terms of new technology. “There is this opportunity to leverage a fabulous talent base in India to build factories from the ground up and almost leapfrog everyone else because you’re not trying refurbish or redo a brownfield site,” he said.

Mills then went on to say that the six strategic partnerships that Rolls-Royce has for their supply chain in India stand out as “some of the finest manufacturing units in our network anywhere in the world”. He explained that the company was in India for the long haul, with some components for the new Trent 7000 type engine being designed and manufactured here.

Vikram Rai, country head, GE Aviation, said maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) was a key growth area for the industry. “There is a lot of discussion around potential MRO opportunities in India,” Rai said, adding that there was a lot to be done on this front and that expanding MRO units was a subset of improving airport infrastructure. “MRO is definitely a growth spot for us,” he said.

Aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt and Whitney, meanwhile, is focussing on building the talent pool required to bring the industry’s growth plans to fruition. Palash Roy Chowdhury, MD-India, Pratt and Whitney, said the company was working on courses to help people in the automotive industry cross over to aviation.

However, Adam Young, marketing director, Asia Pacific, Embraer, drew attention to some areas of concern. “We’ve seen about 120 aircraft inducted into the market through 2018; roughly 80% of them are large narrow-body aircraft. This leaves airlines to deploy this additional capacity to thinner secondary and tertiary routes.”

The executive with the Brazilian aerospace conglomerate said that the opportunities India holds will ideally be served using smaller aircraft. “India remains a country of massive opportunity, but this is a country of changing opportunity and that opportunity will be ideally served using smaller jet aircraft… Today there are 90 city pairs that have no direct services, but through a major city which adds to congestion. We see that the next round of sustainable growth will be achieved using smaller aircraft.”

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