With an annual requirement of around 1,000 pilots, but with barely half that number of Commercial Pilot Licenses (CPLs) issued to cadets from Indian Flight Training Organizations (FTOs), the Indian civil aviation sector faces a shortage of qualified commanders. . And a continued overreliance on foreign pilots.
According to a written statement by the Minister of State at the Ministry of Civil Aviation, General VK Singh (Retired) on March 31 in Lok Sabha, in the past three years, CPLs have been issued to 430 Indian FTO cadets in 2019, 335 in 2020, and 504 in 2021. During the same period, the number of cadets who successfully converted foreign CPLs into Indian CPLs stood at 314 in 2019, 243 in 2020, and 358 in 2021.
Last July, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture flagged the situation regarding the shortage of pilots in India as a matter of grave concern. The committee had underlined the need for the Ministry of Civil Aviation to proactively take action to introduce tailored courses to enhance skills development, research and training and give serious thought to the creation of new FTOs. adjacent to at least one airport in each state.
According to General VK Singh, the government has already initiated several measures to deal with the shortage of pilots in the country. These include the Airports Authority of India (AAI) which has introduced a liberalized FTO policy in which the concept of airport charges (payment of revenue share by FTOs to AAI) has been abolished and land rentals have been significantly streamlined and reduced.
The Minister revealed that AAI has issued letters of award to establish nine new FTOs at five airports: two at Belagavi (Karnataka), two at Jalgaon (Maharashtra), two at Kalaburagi (Karnataka), two at Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh) and one in Lilabari (Assam).
The government has also authorized India’s largest pilot institute, Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi (IGRUA) in Amethi (Uttar Pradesh) to conduct pilot training in Gondia (Maharashtra) and Kalaburagi (Karnataka) to improve hours FTO flight and aircraft usage, both of which are severely impacted during the winter months due to low visibility at Amethi. IGRUA has also started operating on weekends and holidays.
Thanks to these measures, IGRUA, with its current fleet of 18 aircraft, has flown a total of 19,110 hours in the 2021-22 financial year, the highest since its inception in 1986.
IGRUA usage per aircraft in 2021-2022 was 1,062 hours per year. This is the first time in IGRUA’s history that it has broken the magic number of 1,000 hours per aircraft per year. The previous record was 782 hours per plane per year, reached in 2013-2014.
The government, according to the Minister, has also introduced the On-Demand Online Examination (OLODE) for Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) and Flying Crew (FC) candidates from November 2021. This facility allows candidates to choose the date and time from the available exam slots.
The Minister further revealed that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the statutory civil aviation regulatory body in India, has “amended its regulations to give flight instructors the right to authorize flight operations in FTOs”. Until now, this was limited to only Chief Flight Instructor (CFI) or Assistant CFIs.