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Career Opportunities In Commercial Pilot

Still amongst the better-paid and more attractive jobs going, in popular imagery the profession of a pilot has a special mystique attached to it. So those who do succeed in realizing the almost universal childhood dram of earning their wings are generally a pretty pleased lot. Although the employment scenario has been tight in the last decade, thanks to the waves of change sweeping the ?civil aviation industry and the entry of several new private and international airlines, more aspirants may be able to realize this dram in the near future.

Commercial pilots are employed by national airlines like Indian Airlines or Air India and by private airlines as well as by foreign airlines. With the Asia Pacific region emerging as the pivot of the world, the aviation industry in India is poised for takeoff. From a mere 175 aircrafts in 2004, it is expected that by 2010 around 400 odd aircrafts will zip across the Indian skies.

The introduction of low-cost airlines has led to an explosive growth in the sector. Of the 200-odd planes that fly Indian skies, 12 are grounded for want of pilots. The aviation industry employs about 3000 pilots and there is an immediate shortage of 450 planes that will be added to the activity expanding Indian fleet in the next five years and a shortage of additional 4,500 pilots stares us in the face (Total requirement: 7500 pilots by 2010)

A pilot?s job, glamorous as it may appear, is however an extremely demanding one. It involves working odd hours with 200 percent concentration, absorbing complex data that is constantly fed during the flight and taking quick decisions based on the information received. Normally the pilot?s duties begin an hour before the flight. Pre-flight schedules are checked, the specified height, weight and noise levels determined and the meteorological data interpreted. The equipment and instruments are inspected for proper functioning, the fuel requirement estimates, loading and refueling and supervised, the crew briefed. Throughout the flight, the pilot receives a steady stream of information which needs to be interpreted, all the while maintaining contact with air traffic controls. An occasional message to the passengers, keeping them informed about flight conditions can be very reassuring. Usually one or two co-pilots accompany the pilot depending on the duration of the flight. The co-pilot is usually a junior pilot

who will become a full pilot after a few years of fling experience. As the job carries tremendous responsibility you need to be ultra alert, ultra level headed and ultra cool. As a team leader, the pilot must be an effective communicator and able to inspire confidence. To that add a high level of physical and mental fitness.

The Training:

As the first step toward becoming a pilot, you have to obtain a Student Pilot License (SPL) followed by a Private Pilot License (PPL). You can also obtain a CPL straight after you?ve got the SPL if you have completed 10+2 with Physics and Mathematics. These licenses are awarded by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on qualifying the prescribed tests and obtaining the necessary flying experience from a flying club or flying school.

Eyesight: 6/6 in one eye and 6/9 in the other, correctable to 6/6. if you have any eye defect (myopia, hypermetropia, etc.) remember to always wear spectacles and keep an extra pair on standby. A security clearance and a bank guarantee are also necessary. The minimum academic qualification to enroll for an SPL is Class 10. You have to take an entrance exam. The minimum age for joining a flying club is 17 years. The next step is acquire a Private Pilot?s License (PPL) that requires 60 hours of flying experience of which 20 should be solo flying and 5 cross country. This involves taking an exam conducted by DGCA consisting of theory papers on air navigation, aviation meteorology, air regulation and technical aspects. the curriculum is designed to give you overall knowledge of the body of the aircraft, principles and rules of flying, airspeed and cockpit instrumentation, including know-how about a particular type of aircraft ? Piper, Cessna, Pushpak, etc.

To take the test for the CPL, which consists of five papers, you need a minimum of 250 hours of flying experience (including 150 hrs of solo flying, 25hrs of cross-country flying, 10 hrs of instrument flying and 5 hrs of solo night flying). This can be obtained at flying schools in India or abroad (India has only one autonomous government-sponsored flying school, the IGRUA at Rai Bareily). The training schedule for PPL and CPL is of 6 months and 15 months respectively.

Training to be a pilot can be a pretty expensive affair that can push you into a financial air pocket! From April 2001 all DGCA-subsidized rates have been discontinued. However, various states offer separate subsidies of varying amounts up to the PPL stage. Considering the high cost of aviation fuel, you have to pay the steep commercial rate, which is in the region of Rs.2750-3500 per hour. 40 free flying scholarships are awarded to SC/ST trainee pilots every year. Under this scheme, apart from free flying training, student pilots receive financial aid.

There are 29 state-sponsored and 11 private flying academies in the country. The major advantage of private schools is that most of them are located in small towns, which have fewer flights touching down. As a result, getting clearance from Air Traffic Control becomes relatively easy, as compared to the busier large city airports. This, in turn, makes it possible log the mandatory flying hours sooner.

Salaries for commercial pilots are very attractive, ranging anywhere from Rs.40, 000/- to whopping Rs.2 lakh p.m., depending on the airline. Besides the obvious thrill of going places and seeing the world in five-star comfort, there are several attractive perks that go with the job.

Where to Look for Work:

Besides Air India and Indian Airlines, there are several private airlines like Jet Airways, Sahara, Air Deccan, Kingfisher, currently expanding their fleet and range of operations in India. There are several other international airlines that operate through India like United Airlines, Air Canada, Virgin Atlantic, Quantas, KLM, Lufthansa, United Airlines, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Thai Airways, Malaysian Airlines and China Airlines to name a few.

You could start off as a trainee pilot on smaller aircraft. Besides large corporate houses that own private aircraft, there are about 40 aviation companies in the country that rent out helicopters and small aircraft (for a fee of Rs.30, 000-Rs.1.30 lakh per hour + 15% air travel tax.)

Helicopter Pilots:

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd?s (HAL) Rotary Wing Academy at Bangalore would be a good bet. However in compliance with the flight-safety requirements that are being followed worldwide, the DGCA has recently upped the mandatory flying time from the present 100 hours to 150 hours before the CHPL can be issued. So correspondingly, the earlier fee of Rs.10 lakh, which makes it rather steep. Also I?ve heard some rumblings about the non-availability of training aircraft. But on the flip side, the placements for helicopter pilots are far better than their CPL counterparts. For further information about the course contact: HAL Rotary Wing Academy, Helicopter Division, PB No. 1790, Vimanapura Post, and Bangalore-560017.www.hal-india/helicopter/trainingacademy.asp. Email:

Lest you think this is only a male prerogative, remember Indian Airlines was the first to have a women pilot (Durba Bannerjee) command the wide bodied Airbus 300 way back in the early 60?s. Today it has scores of women Airbus pilots on its rolls. The Indian Air Force has over 200.

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Career Opportunities In Commercial Pilot