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Economic Times

NEW DELHI, Jan 29: It’s boom time in the Indian skies, with domestic airlines planning to add over 400 new planes by 2010. The aviation sector is also flying into a huge shortage of trained pilots and ground maintenance staff.

Even as the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation projects 3,200 additional jobs for pilots, there’s a scramble among all players — from the ministry of civil aviation to NRI promoters — to grab a slice of the training pie.

While the government has recently announced plans to set up a new flying institute near Nagpur, private institutes and flying clubs see a huge opportunity in the area of commercial pilot and ground maintenance staff training.

Says Prithvi Nath Sharma, GM, Orient Flight School, Pondicherry, “We currently have 60 students on roll for the commercial pilot training course and this number may double soon. All our students have been placed across airlines, both in the domestic and international sectors.”

Private institutions need approval by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and usually offer courses like private pilot licence, commercial pilot licence, student pilot licence, multi-engine rating, instrument training, aircraft maintenance engineering for ground staff and aeronautical engineering.
 
 
The schools have their own fleet of aircraft and some have procured advanced simulators and airspace infrastructure. Course fees could be charged by the hour at approximately Rs 3,000 per hour or around Rs 8-10 lakh for the full course.

The infrastructure that the institutions offer for training is becoming increasingly crucial. Feels Capt Mamatha, executive director of the Hyderabad-based Flytech Aviation Academy “Today, the responsibility of achieving a zero-accident rate in airlines depends not just on pilots, but also on all professionals including those on the ground. Thus, demand for maintenance engineers is also increasing. If we consider just the new airlines in India today, the demand for pilots in the next four years may reach 3,000 and all flying schools in India pooled together cannot provide these numbers.”

Marc Carvalho, CEO, Carver Aviation of Mumbai is upbeat too. “All our students have been placed across airlines — both private and government. We have about 40-45 students on board every year. The government has been trying to streamline pilot training. They have reduced training flying hours from 250 to 200, which is followed globally. There will be more streamlining in future.”

Flying clubs across the country too are seeing a surge in demand for their trained personnel. “Private players like Spicejet are approaching us for trained staff. This trend was not prevalent earlier with any of the flying clubs. The demand for trained pilots in India is around 400-500 per year and these numbers are multiplying. This is emerging as an excellent and viable career option. Even co-pilots can now earn up to Rs 70,000-Rs 80,000 per month on an average,” says AC Gupta, accountable manager, Delhi Flying Club.

The training sector in India is attracting players from overseas too. Cubex Indian International, a Winnipeg-based company, has recently tied up with Harv’s Air, a training and air taxi operator in Canada to offer air training to Indian students in Manitoba.

“In ’05, we trained 250 students from 21 different countries. We are seeing an increased interest from Indian students and many of them have signed up for the course which started on January 1, ’06,” says Adam Penner, promoter of Harv’s.

Adds Hemant Shah, an NRI &MD of Cubex, “The certificate courses that Indian students can avail themselves of in Canada are world class and give them exposure to specialised infrastructure and a diversified fleet. We are in the process of tying up with Red River College, Stevenson Aviation and Winnipeg Aviation too, for the nine-month private pilot licence courses. The students need to then come back to India and take the DGCA exam which takes a couple of months.”

Montreal-based aircraft simulator maker CAE, too plans to set up training facilities in India.


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