India requires 1,000+ pilots per year but training facilities lacking

India would need 1000+ pilots annually in the next five years, given the expansion of the aviation industry but the nation lacks facilities for training them.

Additionally, they claimed that the quantity of Commercial Pilot Licences granted in the most recent few years is insufficient to fulfil the escalating demand.

According to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, a total of 744 Commercial Pilot Licences (CPL) were issued in 2019, and 578 CPL were awarded in 2020. However, in 2021, the number rose even more to 862.

“Demand for pilots is going to rise. Nearly 200 retirements are expected every year. But, we don’t have adequate infrastructure for this. Currently, a large number of pilots get training in other countries. After coming here, they need to undergo 20 hours of flying, including day and night and cross country for the issue of CPL by the regulator. Issuance of CPLs also takes some time.”

“Government has taken initiatives, but, lack of proper infrastructure at flight training organisations has been observed. There should be monitoring and audit of FTOs.”

–A Senior Pilot in India
Due to inadequate infrastructure, a large number of pilots get trained in foreign countries

While the government claims that there is no scarcity of pilots in India, it also acknowledges a slight lack of commanders for some types of aircraft. To address this, the government has issued Foreign Aircrew Temporary Authorizations for foreign pilots (FATA). According to a Parliament reply on July 28, 2022, there were 82 FATA holders in India as of June 30, 2022, compared to more than 9,000 pilots working for Indian airlines.

Through a recruiting agency, Air India recently planned to hire foreign pilots to fill its needs for the Boeing 777 fleet. These pilots would receive better salaries, attractive terms, and excellent benefits. However, several senior Indian pilots criticised the proposal as a ridiculous idea given that India already has capable and knowledgeable Boeing 777 pilots.

Air India recently intended to cover its needs for the Boeing 777 fleet by hiring international pilots through a recruiting firm

Also read: Air India hits with Pilot & Cabin Crew shortage as it plans to expand internationally

Officials claimed that the government has undertaken numerous measures with the need for qualified pilots in mind. The Flight Training Organization (FTO) policy was liberalised by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) in 2020.

Nine FTO slots were awarded in 2021 following a competitive bidding process at five airports: Belagavi (Karnataka), Jalgaon (Maharashtra), Kalaburagi (Karnataka), Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh), and Lilabari (Assam). As of June 30, 2022, four of these FTOs were in use: two in Kalaburagi and one each in Jalgaon and Lilabari.

Six additional FTO slots were given by the AAI in June 2022 at five airports, including Bhavnagar (Gujarat), Hubballi (Karnataka), Kadapa (Andhra Pradesh), Kishangarh (Rajasthan), and Salem (Tamil Nadu).

In a recent report, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport and Tourism made note of the new initiatives.

“The Committee supports the new initiatives of the Ministry as it is of the opinion that with the expected growth of the Civil Aviation Sector in the country, there would be increased demand for trained pilots. The Ministry should therefore gear up for the requirement of FTOs and set up FTOs in a time-bound manner.”

“The Committee also recommends that keeping in view of the Atmanirbhar Bharat, sufficient FTOs may be established in various parts of the country to ensure that our boys and girls are not going to foreign countries to get pilot training.”

–the report said.

(With inputs from ET)