New Delhi: The Indian civil aviation market is the fastest growing in the world and India’s airport capacity is expected to handle around 1 billion trips by the end of next year. This fast-paced growth of the civil aviation sector, however, faces a bump, with the increasing shortage of trained commercial pilots.
It is expected that for the next five years, India would need 1,000 to 1,200 new pilots every year, against the current rate of around 600-700 commercial pilots who enter the market every year. Airline industry insiders say that the shortage of pilots is forcing some airlines not to take up new routes as there aren’t many pilots available to fly.
“There is a huge shortage of pilots in India and this is affecting operations. We have a limited pool of pilots and the airlines have to operate with the same. There are many routes which the airlines are wanting to explore; even increasing the number of flights on certain routes are getting hampered since there are no pilots,” an employee with an Indian airline told this correspondent.
According to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the aviation watchdog, DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) has issued around 3,300 commercial pilot licences in India in the last five years. These include licences issued for cadets who have passed both from Indian Flying Training Organisations and Foreign Flying Training Organisations.
In the last five years, a little over 2,000 commercial pilot licences have been issued to cadets who have passed out from Indian Flying Training Organisations. Taking the last three years’ figures, there has been a slight increase in the number of commercial pilot licences issued in India. As against 430 commercial pilot licences issued to cadets from Indian Flying Training Organisations in 2019, the number of such licences given out in 2021 increased to 504.
However, industry sources say that the figure is still very low as the launch of two new airlines—Akasa air and Jet Airways—would further pump up the demand for commercial pilot licences in India. Industry insiders say that with the launch of these two airlines, India would require at least 1,200 commercial pilots every year.
Airlines in India currently are dealing with the shortage of pilots by hiring commercial pilots from abroad, but foreign pilots are not given long term licences by the DGCA and need to get their licences renewed every year from the DGCA. This had been done by the DGCA to encourage Indian carriers to hire more Indian pilots. Sources from the pilot fraternity say that one of the reasons for the shortage of pilots in India is the high cost of pilot training and the lack of quality pilot training institutes in India.
According to rough estimates, a commercial pilot training cost in India is about Rs 60-75 lakh, depending upon the number of hours a pilot is being trained and the type of aircraft used for training. It is also estimated that a pilot needs to submit somewhere between Rs 15-20 lakh for training with the airlines before he or she is commissioned into flying passenger aircraft. The licencing procedure for pilots is also kept strict to ensure that “bad” pilots are not entering the market.
There are a total of about 34 flying schools in India approved by the DGCA. The Ministry of Civil Aviation is working towards establishing more flying schools in the country to train a greater number of commercial pilots.
The Airports Authority of India approved the setting up of nine more flying schools in the country last year. These nine flying schools would be set up in five locations—Belagavi (Karnataka), Jalgaon (Maharashtra), Kalaburagi (Karnataka), Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh) and Lilabari (Assam), while 15 more flying schools are to be opened in the second phase at 10 airports, namely Cooch Behar, Tezu, Jharsuguda, Deoghar, Meerut, Kishangarh, Hubli, Kadapa, Bhavnagar.