CHENNAI: Sulfi Leka passed out of the Miami Flying School with flying colours. Rated as the best student pilot, she was confident of landing a job with a full service airline back home in India. But her dream has been shattered - despite clearing the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) exam to convert her commercial pilot licence (CPL) for use in India, there are no takers. After several tests and interviews she has found that none of the private airlines is interested in hiring her. Finally, she got a job flying a corporate jet.
Much worse is the plight of hundreds of Indian students who come back after completing training in schools in Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, UAE, USA and Germany.
The demand for pilots has dropped as the industry scales back, cutting down on flights and fleets to weather the rising cost triggered by the fuel price hike. Industry experts say there would be just three or four airlines on the domestic scene in the future.
The bad patch for fresh-out-of-school pilots has begun because airlines prefer experienced foreign pilots to avoid the trouble and expense of sending fresh recruits abroad for Boeing or Airbus ratings. "More than 1,000 fresh CPL holders are waiting for jobs," says flying school instructor and former director of aviation meteorology Ravi Shankar. Airline officials too confirm the numbers.
Though they have not retrenched pilots, airlines have either shelved plans for recruitment or have slowed down the process. "The intake of pilots has been low in the last three months," said a Jet Airways official. Air India continues to hire but at a slow pace. "It is a long process and is aimed at meeting future vaccancies," said an Air India official.
In 2007, there was an explosion of vacancies and every CPL holder was grabbed by airlines. But, "unemployment has increased because airlines do not like to send a fresh trainee pilot abroad to teach them to fly wide body aircraft. Instead, they hire a foreign pilot. The crew leasing agents too encourage airlines to hire experienced foreign pilots," said Ravi Shankar.
"Pilot training takes long in India, so students go abroad. But schools abroad and some in north India do over-logging (do not allow students to fly the mandatory 200 hours, but show it on record). Such students fail to get jobs in India; they fail the simulator test," said K Venkatesh, a student of Madras Flying Club.
Foreign schools mar flying dreams
CHENNAI: When Ashwin Sakthiram joined Madras Flying Club (MFC) in June 2006 there were 24 students in his class. But when news of an impending boom in aviation started to trickle in, most of them dropped out and joined flying schools abroad to get a licence faster.
Ashwin is still undergoing the course here, but his former classmates, who went abroad, are back with a commercial pilot licence (CPL). But "10 of them are yet to get a job. Most of the airlines ask for a CPL with multi-engine rating (which requires an additional 25 hours flying in a multi-engine plane). The fresh students do not have this. Hence, they do not get preference for jobs," he says.
Besides, some of the flying schools abroad either do not provide quality training or do not allow students to complete the mandatory 200 hours flying. "This will become evident when these students take the simulator test at job screening done by airlines," he said.
Ashwin was not lured by foreign flying schools and stuck to MFC because "I get quality training here and am sure of landing a job even though it takes time. The contract of the foreign pilots will get over in two years, so there will be vacancies again."
Students who pledge and mortgage properties to fund pilot training abroad should realise that opportunities would be limited because consolidations and mergers would leave just three or four airlines on the domestic scene in the coming years, said former pilot Captain A Ranganathan. "This means merit will take a back seat, which it already has, and only those with money and connections will get a job as a pilot," he added.
14 Jul 2008, 0502 hrs IST, V Ayyappan,TNN