Having been unveiled in model form at AAD two years ago, the SARA (Small African Regional Aircraft) project returns to AAD as a full-scale fuselage mock-up.
Led by Denel, but involving many other government, academic and industrial stakeholders, the SARA programme is a candidate for a National Aerospace Flagship Programme. Not only does the SARA aim to provide an affordable ‘community’ airliner tailored to African transport requirements of the future, but also to act as a catalyst for the development of the local aerospace industry by creating a new pool of engineers and technicians.
SARA’s concept is for a twin-engined, 24-seat pressurised airliner that can operate point-to- point services between small, semi-prepared regional runways. The fuselage’s shape, with maximum diameter placed well forward, is a result of employing laminar flow design for maximum aerodynamic efficiency. At the same time, the ‘flattened’ shape of the fuselage allows four-abreast seating to be accommodated – unique for this class of aircraft – while still permitting standing in the central aisle.
Following laboratory confirmation of the aerodynamic principles, the SARA concept definition got under way in June 2012. In April 2014 construction of a full-scale fuselage mock-up began in three sections, which were brought together in May this year.
In the meantime, Denel and government partners funded an independent study by Lufthansa Consulting, which concluded that the aircraft would not only be best in class in terms of performance and capacity, but would also offer the lowest seat-kilometre costs.
Furthermore, the study concluded that the programme could create more than 2,000 technical jobs sustained over 15 years, develop skills of 300 engineering jobs, permit the development of an aerospace special economic zone, and generate significant export revenue.
The report calculated a breakeven at 360 aircraft within the first 10 years of production. Initially the SARA mock-up is being used for a range of studies, including those by PhD students.
Areas to be assessed include emergency escape door and environmental control system concepts, cockpit and cabin ergonomics, and a wide-seat option in the front two rows.
A second phase of studies will include investigation of various seating options (12-, 20- and 24-seater layouts), cargo and combi layouts with rollers, cabin lighting, lavatory installation, and a cabin crew jump seat.