TAMIL NADU

Facing the dearth of commercial pilots

To face the crisis of acute shortage of commercial pilots, the age limit for existing pilots is being raised to 65 from 60. Private players are poaching from other airlines offering higher salaries. Also, pilots from the Defence services are being baited to join the commercial stream. All these are not sufficient to face the requirement of 18,000 pilots worldwide and 5,000 pilots in India in the coming year, laments Kumar Rajagopal, International Student Co-ordinator, Proflite Australia Flight Training Centre, Sydney, Australia. Producing qualified commercial pilots is the only solution to this, he tells Amutha Kannan.

“Though there are a number of training schools in India, they are unable to produce a high number of pilots in the stipulated time. Due to various constraints like lack of air space, runway, non-availability of aircraft and stringent Government regulations, they are able to complete the one-year course only in three years. Also, they get trained only on single-engine aircraft. For a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) flying a multi-engine aircraft is mandatory,” says Mr. Rajagopal. Due to the above reasons, many schools have closed down, he laments. Another major reason is, as flying instructors have become pilots, these schools have been deprived of qualified instructors.

Stating that a good school can train a candidate in eight to 12 months, he adds that those who qualify abroad can come to India and get converted as per the local norms and start off as co-pilots or second officers with a starting monthly salary of Rs. 80,000 to Rs. 1 lakh.

Justifying the high costs (Rs. 16 lakh to Rs. 20 lakh) involved in the training of commercial pilots, he says: “It takes as much to do any professional course here for four or five years. Nowadays parents look to this training as a good investment. The training period is short; but the returns are highly rewarding. And, the demand is also very high. The basic eligibility is a pass in Plus Two.” Attributing the demand to the rise in number of low cost carriers, he says that such carriers will make air travel possible for everybody in the future.

He encourages degree holders with mathematics and physics as majors to take up commercial piloting as it will be easily comprehendible to them. For training overseas, a pass in IELTS with a minimum score of 5.5 and a medical check up by the DGCA are mandatory.

Concurring with the common opinion that candidates trained overseas get absorbed immediately, he says that this is so because they are able to complete the stipulated 250 hours of flying. A CPL includes 650 hours of theory besides the flying time. “Local schools are not able to meet this requirement. They are only able to produce up to a maximum of 250 pilots a year.” The response for the course from Indians when compared to other nationalities is very good, he says. Also, the number of women taking up training and becoming pilots as well as instructors is on a par with the men.

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