By: Setiawan Suhartono.
In 1995, the Indonesian Aerospace (used to be PT.IPTN) launched its indigenous twin-turboprop aircraft designated as N250. Soon after the launching, the 50 seats aircraft won critical acclaim from local people as well as aerospace industrial experts. Nevertheless, many people in Indonesia thought the program was very ambitious and was not necessary for a developing country like Indonesia.
The aircraft features a Fly-by-Wire (FBW) flight control system, which was considered as a breakthrough at that time. It’s designed to fill the market of short range point to point transportation with short take-off and landing (STOL) in unprepared runway. At the time of development, among its competitor includes, Fokker-50, Bombardier Dash-8.
Three prototypes were built for flight testing purposes and each prototype has been flown for more than 500 flight hours and has been tested to the limit of operating envelope, including exploring the aeroelastic characteristic (flutter, control reversal, etc). Few incomplete prototypes were planned to be used as static and fatigue test articles.
In 1997, the program was struck by the ASEAN financial tsunami. Later on, the program was fully terminated because of the financing problem. Some rumors (or maybe a truth) revealed that the program was stopped also because of the involvement of the International Monetory Fund (IMF). One of the point in the Letter of Agreement between the Indonesian government and the IMF was to stop to financing the ambitious N-250 project.
Nowadays, the position left by N-250 has been filled by few newly designed aircraft, such as; the Xian MA-60 and ATR 72-500. The performance specifications of the N250, compared with these two aircraft are given in the illustration below. It can be easily seen that the N250 has a comparable performance than its counterparts. In fact, it was so superior at that time. For example, it’s the only short range aircraft which implemented the FBW concept.
Approximately 80 orders have been made for the MA60 and ATR 72-500 worth of a couple of billions USD. The unit cost of each aircraft itself is around 15 million USD. Currently, the main customer of ATR 72-500 is one of the Indonesian leading airlines, the Lion Air. Besides that, the other Indonesian airline, the Merpati airlines, is in talking with the Xian industry to order few MA-60. The estimated value of the contract from the two airlines is around 300 million USD.
What an incredible amount of money, isn’t it? Imagine if the government of Indonesia decided to continue the development of N-250 and followed with its certification at that time, all Indonesian airlines don’t need to order from overseas. It will have multiplier effects to the Indonesian economics.
So now, who is smart and who is idiot? Engineers and scientists who dream of independency in any aspects, or ECONOMIST and POLITICIANS who CAN’T DREAM at all?
(Disclaimer : Its my subjective view and some data may not be accurate)