Members Login
    Remember Me  
Post Info TOPIC: India struggles to keep aircraft aloft


Status: Offline
Posts: 2289
India struggles to keep aircraft aloft
Permalink Closed
India struggles to keep aircraft aloft
By Raja M

With airline passenger traffic recording record highs in India and new airlines opening by the week to accommodate an expanding flying public now estimated at 150 million, airlines are scrambling to recruit, hire and train enough pilots to keep planes in the air and maintain reasonable safety standards and profit margins.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel informed parliament in a speech on July 27 on the extent of the problem and the steps the government is taking to deal with it. Measures include increasing the retirement age of pilots from 60 to 65, setting up more flight-training schools, and involving more foreign pilots in training and in flying commercial aircraft.

A bemused Jitendra Bhargava, director of public relations for Air India and an industry veteran of more than 25 years, told Asia Times Online, "There is a global shortage of pilots, including in China, and our expansion plans have been affected. [At present], Air India has around 40 foreign nationals as cockpit captains."

A senior captain with Jet Airways, who requested anonymity because of contractual clauses, informed ATol how employing foreign pilots not only has increased operational costs but also has caused communication problems and near-mishaps. Indian pilots' salaries are cracking the ceiling, with average monthly pay scales equivalent to about US$7,500, but even that is far less than what their foreign colleagues are pocketing.

"With foreign pilots being paid about $20,000 per month, there is no such thing as a low-cost airline," the senior Jet Airways pilot said. He proceeded to list the nationalities of foreign pilots currently flying with Jet: "Romanian, Croatian, English, German, Austrian, Swiss, Swedish, Hungarian, [Argentine], Mexican, Brazilian, Malaysian, Indonesian, Filipino, Australian ..."

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the industry regulator, allows foreign pilots to be hired for not more than a 12-week stretch. Technically, they are in the cockpit to train Indian pilots.

A bigger worry is that the directorate is permitting private airlines to employ pilots inexperienced with sensitive fly-by-wire aircraft. This includes fighter pilots poached from the Indian Air Force. The problem, point out technical analysts, is that it takes more than 250 hours of flying experience to get familiar with the Electronic Flight Instrument Systems that modern passenger planes have.

The Chennai-based, non-profit Air Passengers Association of India (APAI) is worried that the present civil-aviation boom is more than the DGCA resources can handle, particularly in granting safety audits of airlines. It wants a civil-aviation regulatory independent of the directorate. APAI president D Sudhakara Reddy said, "We demand creation of a Civil Aviation Regulatory Authority along the lines of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to tackle issues concerning passenger safety."

India currently has 19 flying clubs and training institutes licensed by the DGCA. The government plans to establish more flying institutes, including the proposed Rajiv Gandhi National Flying Training Institute at Gondia, Maharashtra state.

But the problem with civil aviation in India is not so much the lack of flying institutes as the difficulty in getting a pilot's license. It is easier to get a license in the United States than in India. Moreover, the DGCA issues licenses under rules drafted in 1937, and the examinations contain many questions irrelevant to modern flying conditions.

This summer some airlines announced that they plan to train their own pilots partially at their expense. Air India, with 550 pilots already on staff, plans to recruit about 200 science and engineering graduates with almost no flying experience and turn them into pilots, according to Bhargava. They could do with better training. Early last month, an Air India Airbus A310 gave Bahrain's airport a fright when it landed on the wrong runway.

The US has 25,000 aircraft to serve a flying population of 213 million; India has about 150 aircraft to serve a flying market of 150 million. India needs at least another 10,000 aircraft and a minimum of 100,000 pilots at the current regulatory minimum of 10 pilots per aircraft for domestic flights and 22 per aircraft for international flights. "The problem is so big you can't wrap your fingers around it," said one pilot.

Estimates say that 4,000 more captains will be needed to feed airline expansion plans up to 2010. A trainee takes at least 200 flying hours and one year to become a co-pilot. A co-pilot takes about four years to become a captain.

Little wonder that foreign training institutes too are trying to get in the act. Canada-based CAE, serving about 3,500 aviation clients worldwide, launched a global flight training alliance - initially with Academia Aeron Utica de Vora in Spain, HM Aerospace in Langkawi, Malaysia, and International Airline Training Academy in Tucson, Arizona - to produce more than 2,000 pilots a year. This is to address the growing shortage of airline crews, particularly in rapidly growing aviation markets such as China and India.

(Copyright 2006 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing .)



Status: Offline
Posts: 2450
Permalink Closed

Thank god the article was India struggles to keep aircraft aloft and not Indian struggles to keep aircraft aloft

Light travels faster than sound...thats why people appear bright, until you hear them talk!
Page 1 of 1  sorted by
Quick Reply

Please log in to post quick replies.

Tweet this page Post to Digg Post to

Create your own FREE Forum
Report Abuse
Powered by ActiveBoard