Pilot shortage on horizon

Airlines Ambitious Expansion Plans May Not Take Off Due To Dearth Of Pilots

Anindya Upadhyay N...
It takes 4-5 years of training for a junior pilot to be able to become a captain, said
Bird Group executive director Ankur...
A Airline industry: Pilot shortage affects economy
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A Airline industry: Pilot shortage affects economy


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Demand for pilots is increasing since passengers have come out humming up the airports again. Airline industry of the country is planning to expand its dimensions by involving experienced pilots since its shortage has been detected. As per the estimates, it’s down the line already with 300 at present and the number is expected to be nearly 700 after the government’s order that bars expat pilots takes effect from July 2011. Taking it as serious issue, many airlines like Spice Jet are taking actions to sort the problem by hiring at least 15 expat pilots to bring the economy back on track to perform well.

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A Airline industry: Pilot shortage affects economy

  1. 1. Pilot shortage on horizon Airlines Ambitious Expansion Plans May Not Take Off Due To Dearth Of Pilots Anindya Upadhyay NEW DELHI PASSENGERS have come out of hiding. Airports are humming again. Now only if there were enough pilots around. The country’s airlines have drawn up ambitious expansion plans against a brightening backdrop, but are confronted with a severe shortage of experienced pilots. Industry estimates peg the shortage at 300 at present, but the number will swell to nearly 700 once a government order that bars expat pilots takes effect from next July. A beefed-up fleet size is certain to amplify the shortage. The number of aircraft operated by low-cost carriers such as IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir is estimated to more than double to 130 in five years.Full-service players such as Jet Airways,Air India and Kingfisher Airlines that together operate nearly 350 aircraft too are expanding. Jet,the countrys biggest private airline, plans to increase capacity by 15% this year.Air India has ordered 28 Dreamliners due for next September. For the aviation sector,700 is a weighty number given that an airline requires 10 pilots per aircraft. It is a serious problem.But no regulator will be inconsiderate enough to have the industry grounded because of a deadline, said Kapil Kaul,South Asia CEO of Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation,a global aviation consultancy. Airlines are not taking chances though."In order to ensure that airlines' expansion continues unhindered,we have asked the aviation regulator (DGCA) to extend the deadline for expat pilots,"said Federation of Indian Airlines general secretary Anil Baijal. Whether the government enforces its deadline remains to be seen,the way out for airlines would be to increase hiring.Indeed,there is a huge pool of trainee pilots at hand to fill vacancies.But hiring in the aviation sector is different from any other in that only those who have had at least four years of flying experience can become captains.In India,there has always been a dearth of pilots at this level.The influx of expats into the Indian aviation scene was spawned by this shortage. Although training of junior pilots has begun,it will be difficult to cope without the expat pilots, said a senior executive of a full service carrier. The problem has been accentuated by a dearth of commanders and veterans who can train the recruits.Hiring and training in this category took a backseat during the slowdown and that is hurting airlines now.
  2. 2. It takes 4-5 years of training for a junior pilot to be able to become a captain, said Bird Group executive director Ankur Bhatia. For the aviation industry,the development comes just as it was sniffing at a full-on turnaround.Domestic air traffic has risen 19.3% between January and August from a year earlier,gradually returning to the pre-slowdown days.Full-service carriers are increasingly redeploying flights across sectors after having been forced to scale down operations due to galloping fuel prices and slack demand.This has resulted in a spurt in demand for experienced pilots. "At the current growth rate,the experience level (of pilots) available along with training capacity are the two bottlenecks that challenge airlines,"said a Jet Airways spokesman. Some experts fear that the industry could return to the days when a scramble for talent resulted in airlines poaching and hurting rivals operations.Many flights were left stranded because pilots were jumping ship and the government had to intervene to check the practice.CCMC,a research based consulting organisation that also designs pilot selection systems for airlines,says the industry would need about 700 pilots by as early as March. "Since the Indian market is growing and airlines are inducting capacity,hiring is doubtlessly going to pick up,"said Bird Groups Bhatia. SpiceJet,which will commence international operations this October,plans to hire nearly 37 senior pilots by the year-end and about 13 junior pilots.Likewise,GoAir plans to recruit 15 pilots by December. The government dikat on expat pilots is certainly not high on their priorities.SpiceJet plans to hire up to 15 expat pilots."Ours is a fast-growing market,I think expats are going to remain beyond next year,"said Mr Bhatia. In any case,airlines have begun training pilots in earnest so as to address the shortage of senior commanders.