DHRUV CRASH UPDATE #4: The Engine Quandary

A day after the crash, there were certain media reports in Ecuador about the date when the Dhruv's Turbomeca engine was manufactured and delivered to HAL -- the engine was made in 2007, and the helicopter integrated in 2008 for delivery in 2009. The reports have harped on the fact that the engine was manufactured a year earlier than final integration with the helicopter.

In response to these view, here's an expert view from my sources in the investigation. For any assembly line to run the parts have to be ordered in advance. The time taken to manufacture the helicopter can be upto six months. The vendor also needs advance notice to supply the required systems and sub-systems. The "Just in Time" concept of inventory mangement is used by HAL, but such cases will always be there -- they are commonplace with system integration of helicopters and aircraft the world over. In aviation, the loss of one calendar year in the life of an engine is totally acceptable, since it is expected that the operator will use up the engine hours at a much greater rate. For example, if the life between overhaul of the engine is 1,200 hours, then at the rate of usage of 30 hours per month (a very conservative estimate) the engine life would be used up in 4 years while the calendar life is 15 years.

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