Government Flying Training School (GFTS) at Jakkur, Bangalore, has begun classes after a long gap.

Nineteen-year-old Isha Sharma from Delhi has landed in Bangalore. The reason: the dream of her father to make her a commercial pilot received a boost when he came to know that the training aircraft of Government Flying Training School (GFTS) at Jakkur, Bangalore, have taken off after a gap of about nine years.

“It was the best feeling of my life when I first flew the training aircraft,” said Isha while explaining that her father chose to admit her to GFTS due to its past reputation, as it was known as one of the best government-owned flying training schools in the country. Isha, who has just completed her Standard 12, is the only female trainee in the 10-member batch of the 18-month Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) course that began a week ago.

Mohamed Yasar Arafat has come from Tiruchi in Tamil Nadu to become a pilot. “I have completed my B.S. (Geology) from Madras University. It was my dream to become a pilot. I was monitoring the activities of GFTS from the past couple of years and grabbed the opportunity when it re-launched the course,” he said.

Change of plan

Re-opening of GFTS has made Rajesh K.V., who lives at Sahakarnagar, merely a kilometre away from the GFTS, to change his plans to go to Canada to secure a CPL. “I was almost ready to fly to Canada, where one of my friends did the CPL course, when I got to know about the re-start of the course here,” Rajesh said.

“We have re-launched the school after overcoming all the hurdles and received good response when we invited applications for admission to CPL,” said B.N. Suresh, Director of GFTS, while pointing out that the receipt of about 120 applications indicates the popularity of the school even though it went through some tough time in recent years. The training course at GFTS was stopped in 2002 and flying activities were halted since 2006.

Mr. Suresh said the GFTS ensured that all safety aspects were in place before it re-launched the training. It adhered to all the new safety guidelines and stricter norms of airworthiness of the training aircraft and aerodrome equipment as prescribed by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

The fee factor is one reason why youngsters aspiring to be pilots knock on the doors of GFTS. The 18-month CPL course at GFTS costs Rs.15.05 lakh, including Rs.1 lakh refundable deposit. This is lower by at least Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 12 lakh compared to the fees charged by many private flying institutes.Mr. Suresh said the institute did not want to take more students initially as it has started its activities after a huge gap and wanted to ensure that all aspects of training are in place in the next six months. He points out that the school will admit candidates for another batch in about six months to one year period while adding that at least 25 candidates are eager to join part-time courses.

“At present we have two Cessna-152 and one Cessna-172 aircraft for training. We are planning to buy three more – two Cessna-172 at a cost of Rs.3 crore and one multi-engine aircraft at a cost of Rs.6 crore. The Government has given approval in principle and we hope that the school will get them as early as possible,” said Mr. Suresh.

Mr. Suresh said that the students who join the CPL course immediately after passing Standard 12 will be deprived of a degree even though they become eligible to get a commercial pilot job. Keeping this in mind, the GFTS has initiated talks with the Bangalore University and Visvesvaraya Technological University to start an integrated undergraduate course so that those who join the 18-month CPL course after their Standard 12 will have an option to continue their study and secure a degree too.

Prospects

How is the future for a CPL holder? The answer to this question is the predicted bright future of aviation sector in the country even though at present there is a slump in job opportunities. According to experts, there are about 4,000 jobless CPL holders in the country and many of them have joined hands to start the All India Unemployed Pilots Association (AIUPA).

Capt. N. Jaiprakash, Chief Flying Instructor, GFTS, hopes that the future of CPL holders will be bright, going by the plans of the aviation sector. Pointing out that a CPL holder will get a starting package of Rs. 80,000-Rs. 1 lakh, he said that of late airlines are insisting on “type-rated” CPL holders. Type-rating is a special training obtained to fly a specific type of aircraft.

A firm has launched such a training centre in Bangalore recently, he added.

Pay more

“A youngster who spends about Rs.20 to Rs.30 lakh to get a CPL, will now have to spend an additional Rs.25 lakh to Rs. 30 lakh to get type-rating from reputed firms offering such training using simulation and other technology,” said a member of the AIUPA.

He pointed out that such a situation is proving to be a burden on unemployed pilots hailing from middle class families. The AIUPA points out that hiring of foreign pilots by airlines has denied job opportunities for Indian pilots.

However, the CPL holders as well as those aspiring to become pilots are hopeful that the aviation sector in the country will expand, including regional air transport, in the next couple of years so that their dream of earning a livelihood by flying commercial aircraft will become a reality.

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