Aviation in India

India holds the title of the world’s third-largest civil aviation market with an average annual growth rate of 12 %. There are 35 Airlines operating in India with a collective total of 700 aircraft and adding 50 more each year. India currently has over 9,370 pilots as of December 2019 and is projected to need another 17000 by 2030. According to data released by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the hiring of pilots has gone up by 88 % in 2019 with Indigo being the top employer.

On the Defence side, the Indian Air Force is the world’s fourth-largest air force. It has approximately 1,820 aircraft in service comprising of 905 combat planes, 595 fighters and 310 attackers. It employs 4000 pilots divided between all categories. Due to the expansion and retirements, the force is always facing a shortfall. Flying career in defence provides the privilege of flying fighter jets in extreme environments, excellent benefits, pension plans and most importantly the pride of working for the nation. It comes virtually at zero cost as all the expenses are paid by the defence academy.

With global demand for airline pilots reaching new heights, there has never been a better time to choose a career as a professional pilot.

Pilot Job Description

Pilots fly and navigate aircrafts, helicopters, and other types of airplanes. Modern aircrafts are operated by a two-cockpit crew made up of the captain and the co-pilot/ first officer. The captain or pilot in command, usually the most experienced pilot, supervises all other crew members and has primary responsibility for the flight. The co-pilot/ first officer, shares flight duties with the captain to fly the plane, communicate with air traffic controllers, monitor instruments and ensure passenger comfort/safety.

Pilots are hired broadly into defense and civil aviation. A choice between the two mainly depends on the passion for flying and financial capability. Depending on the organization, pilots work mainly in transporting people and cargo, military and combat missions, intelligence and scientific surveillance, rescue and firefighting, agricultural missions, etc. Passenger airline pilots hold the title of the most lucrative career in light of career progression, lifestyle, salary, and benefits.

Duties and Responsibilities

–  Performing pre and post-flight inspections of all aircraft equipment and systems.
–  Operating the aircraft safely.
–  Monitoring weather conditions and communicating with air traffic control during flights.
–  Work closely with flight attendants to ensure all passengers follow safety rules while being on board.
–  Updating and reassuring passengers and crew during emergencies.
–  Determining the safest routes and analyzing flight plans prior to take-off.
–  Anticipating issues and maintaining professionalism during emergencies.
–  Fill out reports about the flight and the status of the aircraft after landing.
–  keeping up to date with aircraft advancements and equipment.

Process (Civil)

STEP 1Meet the DGCA and Airline eligibility
STEP 2Register for PMR number, eGCA Id, and Computer number
STEP 3Get Class 2 and Class 1 medical
STEP 4Choose a certified Flight school in India or abroad
STEP 5Complete ground training of aviation subjects
STEP 6Get an SPL and start flying training
STEP 7During flying training, pass DGCA and RTR exams
STEP 8Complete flying as per DGCA requirements including Instrument and Multi-engine rating
STEP 9Get the license issued from DGCA
STEP 10Prepare for airline entrance exams and interviews
STEP 11Get a Type-Rating to improve your chances of selection
For Defence pilot, read Defence career

Eligibility Requirements

AGESPL (Student pilot license) – 16 Years and 10th (earliest you can enrol for the course)
PPL (Private pilot license) – 17 Years
CPL (Commercial pilot license) – 18 Years
EDUCATION10+2 with Physics and Maths (Preferably with English) from CBSE or
an equivalent qualification from the board recognized by CBSE, State Govt. Education Board case of Technical education like Diploma, it should be recognized either by AICTE or by the respective Directorate of Technical Education of State Govt. If any other qualification, stream or low percentage marks, candidates can apply for either subject from NIOS (National institute of open schooling)
LANGUAGETraining and Airline Environment language is English; therefore, a good command of spoken and
written English is important. Training and Airline Environment language is English; therefore, a good command of spoken and
written English is important.
DOCUMENTSIndian passport or OCI
Police clearance
MEDICALThere is a huge misconception that pilot training requires perfect medical conditions. It is true in the case of the Air force and other defence aviation but commercial aviation requirements are much relaxed. Read about the medical requirements.
HEIGHT158 cm and above (preferred)
EYESIGHT6/6 with corrective spectacles
Mental and physical fitness

Candidate Registration

Once all the requirements are met, candidates need to register with DGCA. There are 3 different registration required which gives access to specific facilities.

1. PMR Number

– Stands for “previous medical record”
– Issued by DGCA after Class 2 medical report is submitted.
– It is a unique file number for each candidate that DGCA maintains for its documentation.
– All future communication will be based on this reference.

2. Computer Number

– It is a permanent unique number issued to each candidate by the Central examination organization (CEO), DGCA.
– It is required for appearing in the examinations conducted by DGCA.
– It’s not required for appearing in the examinations of SPL, GPL, FRTOL-R.
– Candidates can go to https://pariksha.dgca.gov.in select “New candidate” and fill the form to generate a computer number.
– Min age 16 years.

3. eGCA

– Applicant must be registered on eGCA portal and should have a unique eGCA ID.
– This portal maintains all the Licenses, Ratings, and Flying hours records.
– All the Licensing issuance and Renewal requests are made from here.

Training Overview

In India, students can pursue a pilot career in two ways, Defence or Civilian.

The defence forces: Indian Air ForceIndian NavyArmy Aviation Corps, and Indian Coast Guard recruits pilots every year via SSB, NDA, CDSE, and AFCAT. Defence career is highly competitive with 300,000 candidates applying annually for 100 posts. Depending on the path of entry, after completion, of the course, candidates are bonded for a fixed term, after which they have the choice to either continue the employment or seek retirement and switch to civil aviation.

On the civilian side, once the eligibility requirements and medical check are met, the candidate can start with deciding between training in India or training abroad. The decision between the two depends on a variety of factors such as cost, duration, quality of training, and personal preference. Irrespective of the country, it is important to select a flight school with a good infrastructure and safety records. Once in flight school, candidates are provided with a Student Pilot License (SPL) to start their flying career. Candidates will eventually progress to Private Pilot License (PPL) stage and then ultimately Commercial Pilot License (CPL). Candidates planning to join an airline will also be getting additional certifications like Instrument rating, Multi-engine rating, MCC, ELP, Type-rating, etc. Read about all types of licenses.

Candidates can now find jobs in a variety of companies such as Passenger AirlinesDefenceCharter AirlinesCargo airlinesFlight schools, etc.

Airline Selection

Airline entrances are highly competitive and candidates are selected through a multi-layer selection process.

1. Written exam (Knowledge check)
2. Psychometry test (Aptitude, multi-tasking, and decision making)
3. Group discussion (General awareness, team player, leadership, language)
4. Simulator test (Aircraft flying skill)
5. Final interview (Technical, Personality, and Attitude)

Type Rating

Most airlines nowadays ask for Type-rating endorsement which is additional training done in a simulator academy to be able to fly aircraft like the Airbus A320 or the Boeing B737.

Career Progression

Trainee PilotJoining the Airline
Junior First OfficerCompletion of training
Senior First Officer2 years / 1500 hours
Captain4-5 years / 3000 hours
Training Captain5-7 years / 4000 hours
Type Rating Instructor (TRI)7-8 years / 5000 hours
Type Rating Examiner (TRE)8-10 years / 6500 hours
Test Pilot10-15 years / 10000 hours

Pilots are also assigned non-flying positions such as:

Management Pilot
Recruitment Pilot
Audit Pilot
Ground Training Instructor
Simulator Training Instructor

Note – Above figures are industry estimates. Actual numbers will vary depending on market requirements and organization

Top Employers

DEFENCEIndian air force
Indian coast guard
Indian navy
Indian army aviation corps
officer (pilot),
General duty pilot
(Indian coast guard)
competition exams
Rs 40k – 1.4 lakhs pm
Air India
Go air
Air Asia
Air India express
Alliance air
Trainee First officer
Junior First officer
CPL (First officer and trainee)
ATPL (Captain)
ME rating
IR rating
Type rating as per airline
Flying hours
Rs 1.5 – 6 lakhs pm
Junior First officer
ME rating
IR rating
Type rating as per airline
Flying hours as per airline
Rs 7.0 – 10.0 lakhs pm
CARGO AIRLINESBlue dartTrainee First officer
First officer
CPL (First officer and trainee)
ATPL (Captain)
ME rating
IR rating
Type rating as per airline
Flying hours as per airline
Rs 1.20 – 4.50 lakhs pm
Air charter
AR airways
Global Vectra helicorp
Pinnacle air
Reliance commercial
First officer
CPL (First officer)
ATPL (Captain)
ME rating
IR rating
Type rating as per airline
Flying hours
Rs 1.0 – 5.0 lakhs pm
Reliance Transport
ME rating
IR rating
Type rating as per airline
Flying hours
Rs 250k – Rs 800k pm
GOVERNMENTAirports Authority of India
Govt of Rajasthan
First officer
Vacancies are published
on respective website
and newspapers
Rs 70k – 150k pm
FLIGHT SCHOOLSChimesAviation Academy
Falcon Aviation Academy
Garg Aviation
Haryana Institute of Civil Aviation
Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Udan
National Flying Training Institute
Orient Flight Aviation Academy
Patiala Aviation Club
The Bombay Flying Club
Assistant fight instructorVacancies are published on respective websites and newspapers. Most students finishing flying from the school are offered a Flight instructor position. Some schools also offer to pay for instructor training in return for a small bond.Rs 80k – 250k pm


Airline pilot is a very rewarding career, both financially and in terms of job satisfaction. Pilots get to see some truly fantastic sights from the air that one will never get tired of. Pilots are generally very well paid. A typical pilot in India starts her or his career, sometimes by the age of 21, with a salary of over Rs 1 lakh a month. A captain by the age of 27, take home as much as Rs 10 lakh monthly. Most airlines also offer excellent staff travel packages, with 100% – 90% off the ticket prices for the entire family. Adding to it are excellent insurance, health, and pension benefits.

However, it must be noted that the path to get here is not easy. There is a huge amount of hard work that goes into flying. Flying is also a very expensive training with average spending of Rs 70-80 lakhs per student. The Indian aviation market is booming and there is a huge requirement for pilots, but the competition is equally fierce and recruiters are very selective given the responsibility of this job. Getting the job is not the end of it, studying and keeping in touch with advances, maintaining skills, planning rest patterns, making sure to stay healthy for medicals is equally challenging. Pilots also miss family occasions and celebrations at times, which can be frustrating.

In the end, it’s a package that comes with pros and cons. The pros however outweigh the cons if one has the passion and appreciation of flying.

Pilot india eligibility salary