What should students keep in mind if they wish to make a career in the aviation industry? C.G. Krishnadas Nair, Managing Director of Cochin International Airport Ltd, highlights the present state of the aviation industry and emerging job opportunities in an interview.

C. G. Krishnadas Nair, Managing Director of Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL), an authority on aviation-related topics, has earlier served as Chairman of the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). He is also the founder president of the Society of Indian Aerospace Technologies and Industries. In an exclusive interview to The Hindu-EducationPlus, Dr. Nair, elaborates on a wide range of issues including the impact of slowdown on aviation industry and the emerging academic and job opportunities in the field for youngsters.

Could you elaborate on the impact of the slowdown on the aviation industry?

The economic recession has made an impact on the aviation industry, if you look at globally. In India, there has been a slowdown on growth of the air transport, if you look at in general. But it is recovering. Earlier, we had a big growth of 20 to 25 per cent per year. It came down to 8 per cent. Now it is picking up to 10 per cent.

India will sustain about 10 to 12 per cent easily in the domestic and international travel. But the original anticipated growth is not taking place after the slowdown. In India, it is recovering. And it is definitely more than 10 per cent. It may go to 12 per cent, if our infrastructure can grow in a time of recession.

We should do the same thing, as what ancient people used to do in tough times. We should pump in more money to build roads and airports. If you have all that, it will create more economic activity and create more employment. Then all industries will develop. I am not a great expert in economics. This is the situation.

In a time of recession, we should use government money to encourage the private sector to put in place a lot of infrastructure. The creation of infrastructure will create wealth and employment. This is happening in India, slowly. Air travel will also grow. We can speed it up by enhancing our efforts in infrastructure creation for airports. The government is doing it now. We have a plan for 35 non-metro airports and to enhance the facilities in the airports. Encourage private sector and State governments to build new roads to airports. Government will have to support the airline industry by reducing the fuel cost. In India, it is highest, around 45 to 46 per cent. And reduce the sales tax. That will give a good relief. What people are trying to do is to squeeze airports, saying that you reduce landing and parking charges. And the total expenditure for the airline in terms of their payment to the airport comes to less than 4 per cent internationally, and that is the same case with India also. Therefore, we have to focus on reducing the cost of fuel. That is the main thing. Then it will improve. And some benefit of that should be passed on to the passengers. So that fare will come down. More passengers will travel. Economy will grow. There are lots of people who want to fly. India has 14 million passengers travelling by train daily. Opportunities are there for us. We have to plan.

What are the emerging job opportunities in the aviation sector for youngsters? How should they shape up their career in the industry?

It all depends on how the government and the private sector plan to accelerate the growth in the aviation sector. Right now, there is a plan for better facilities in airports. Therefore growth will survive and there will be a good future.

There are good quality and bad institutes doing only business. Students (coming out from there) will have degrees. But they will not be employable. My advice to the students is to go for the best schools, where there is good quality infrastructure and excellent faculty. Students and parents should choose the right institutes. Look at their track record in terms of placement. There are institutes that charge high fees. They make a lot of promises. But there are many institutes which are not able to give project work to the students. They go around begging for training. The project work is part of the academic programme. Otherwise they don't get degrees. It is their (institutes) job to give them training. So parents and students should find out the best institutes. New airports require designers, construction engineers, managers, technicians for ramp handling. Job opportunities will automatically come.

What are the major highlights of the CIAL Aviation Academy?

The response for the academic programmes of the academy has been good. There will be an overwhelming response next year. We have just started. We have a lot of knowledge expertise and infrastructure. We are providing education that they (students) would not get anywhere. We have airport and other facilities. They will have greater potential for employment. In two years, you can impart the best of knowledge to them. It also depends on what kind of students enrol here. But we have to develop their communication skills. The lack of proper communication skills is a problem. We have to develop their communication and personality skills along with their technical knowledge.

We are trying for tie-ups with airports in the country and abroad. We will provide them with training and give them every opportunity to learn. We also encourage engineers to learn management at some stage. MBA is a good qualification for an engineer. Airports have a lot of engineering and commercial operations. We don't have any course in the country on MBA in airline and aviation management. We are planning an M.Tech. in airport engineering, which will cover airport construction and management.

We are getting people from other airports and airlines to support us in our academic programmes. They (students) will get a good education here. We have plans to offer a programme for engineers in air traffic control and management. We have to get the sanction from Director General of Civil Aviation.

The country needs 600 air traffic controllers and managers in the next five to six years. What we are planning is to have a proper degree course so that they (students) can work in India and abroad.