SFTE India Chapter pays homage to India’s highly accomplished flight control engineer, Dr. S Srinath Kumar, who left us on 19th May, 2021. The Indian Aviation community will always remember him for the leadership and guidance he provided in the successful development of flight control laws for India’s first ever fly-by-wire fighter aircraft, the LCA. As the head of the FMCD group in NAL, he interacted very closely with ASTE and AFTPS in the mid 1980’s, on flight experiments and in providing guidance on Parameter Identification and Flying Qualities projects. He leaves behind a rich heritage and legacy for all to cherish and emulate. Below is a Tribute to (late) Dr Srinath Kumar by Mr Shyam Chetty who was Director of NAL between 2011 and 2016.
Wg Cdr K Kalyanaraman (Retd); President, SFTE India Chapter 2020 -2021
Tribute to Dr Srinath Kumar by Shyam Chetty
Dr. S. Srinathkumar (popularly known as SSK), joined National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), Bangalore in 1961 after a degree in Electrical engineering from Bangalore University. His initial activities at NAL were to learn use of sensors and closed loop control applicable to wind tunnels. He left NAL to pursue his Masters in Hawaii (1973) and Doctoral work in Oklahoma (1976), where he worked on Eigen system approach to Modern control. Two stints of NRC fellowships at NASA matured him further as a controls engineer.
After his return to NAL in 1978, he was mandated to work on aircraft flight, even though there were no obvious programs in sight. Nonetheless, he lost no time to get deep into the field of Atmospheric Flight Mechanics, Parameter identification, Human Machine interface issues and aircraft Handling-qualities, in a bid to prepare for possible future aircraft flight control programs. He was soon asked to take up the position as Head of the newly created Flight Mechanics & Control Division (1991), with a team of youngsters.
By 1992, India was ready to invest into the indigenous LCA development program. Dr. Srinath Kumar was tasked by Dr. Abdul Kalam (then Scientific Advisor) to lead the LCA Control law team consisting of members from NAL, ADA, HAL, IAF and ADE. Under his able guidance, the team successfully accomplished the synthesis of digital quadruple redundant LCA fly-by-wire flight control laws. Thanks to the immense contribution from his team, LCA TEJAS witnessed its successful first flight on 4th January 2001, a major first time achievement in India. Undeniably, his engineering acumen has given the country a product that every Indian is proud of.
He retired in 2000, but continued to pursue his personal interest in Eigen systems research by writing a Monograph on Eigenstructure and control algorithms, that was published by the Institute of Engineering and Technology, London, UK in 2011. Application of this approach to helicopter flight control is unique. He created a website where he freely distributed all his Publications, Matlab codes to interested parties. This site attracted thousands of hits, communications and transfers of code internationally. His numerous technical papers in peer reviewed international journals bear testimony of his seminal contribution to modern control engineering.
Dr Srinath Kumar was always very polite and soft spoken, and never openly critical. He would encourage and motivate youngsters to take up challenging work. His first reaction to a presentation would be “fantastic”; but his team members knew that the gap between his first and last “fantastic” could be long and tortuous. His passion and patience, backed by his tremendous knowledge and practical approach to problem solving was simply unmatched. His friendly unassuming nature and great humility, endeared him to all who worked with him. He was always too modest in accepting accolades for his own work and achievements, and would often say ‘I did not do anything, you people did all that’.
Dr Srinath Kumar was undoubtedly India’s most accomplished flight control engineer. He will always be remembered for his immense contributions to LCA flight control laws. With his passing away, an era has come to an end. We join the aerospace community to pay our respectful obeisance to this remarkable scientist and engineer.
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