If you are willing to let your ambition soar, the sky is the limit. And that is literally true for pilots. Among all aviation-related jobs, a pilot's job is considered the most important as they actually have to fly that machine in which hundreds of people are boarded.
In the last few years, the demand for pilots has been on the rise. As Praful Patel, minister for civil aviation has stated, the aviation sector has the potential to grow by 25 per cent a year over the next 10 years. The numbers speak for themselves. Almost 450-odd aircraft have been ordered by a dozen existing airline companies, who are expanding their fleet. Even corporates are looking at purchasing their own planes.
At present, there around 150 corporate jets and those numbers are likely to go up to over 350 in the next three years. Says Marc Carvalho, CEO, Carver Aviation Academy, "No matter how many fresh pilots join companies, the crunch is likely to continue for some time till these students reach higher positions in the organisations." Predictably, many foreign pilots are being hired to fill in the position of that coveted position of a commander.
Let us look at a few figures. Currently, all of India's current training institutes put together churn out anywhere between 400 to 500 students a year. Add to this, another 200 to 300 students who join the work force after training abroad. That is, a total of around 800 pilots is being added every year. The demand, on the other hand, is going to be for around 3,200 trained pilots by in the next four years from just the commercial sector when the 450 commercial aircraft are delivered.
And of course, there is the lack of proper instructors. Says Air Commodore A D Chhibbar, CEO of Pune's Blue Diamond Aviation institute, "The major handicap is the lack of good instructors in the training schools." In his view, it would be prudent for the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to consider utilising the expertise of ex-Air Force qualified flying instructors to bridge this gap.
The route to the cockpit starts with a Student Pilot License (SPL). This can be attained at the age of sixteen years only. The cost of such courses is almost Rs 1 lakh. Once you have your SPL, you can go for Private Pilot License (PPL) or Commercial Pilot License (CPL). But the former does not allow you to fly commercially and is generally taken up by those who have a passion for flying.
A CPL allows you to fly for airlines, corporate private planes or even cargo airlines. To obtain a CPL, 200 hours of flying is necessary. The cost is as high as Rs 11 to 12 lakh. Then, you also require to have knowledge of handling multi-engine aircraft which is another three weeks of training and comes with an extra price tag of Rs 2.5 lakh. Similar courses done abroad come for almost Rs 25 to 30 lakh.
As the training costs are really steep, many banks offer loans for them. Student education loans of Rs 10 to 20 lakh are available for pursuing pilot training courses in India and abroad. Interest rates charged are between 12 to 13 per cent. Banks approve such loans easily, if the chosen training school is one from their own list of approved flight training schools.
The salaries start from Rs 10,000-20,000 (stipend) till the pilot successfully undergoes the initial training of six months to one year to become eligible for sharing the cockpit with the flying team. Going forward in the career, there are two other levels -- first officer and commander. A first officer (junior and senior) can earn in the range of Rs 1.2 lakh to 1.8 lakh per month. The commander commands anywhere between Rs 2.5 to Rs 4 lakh a month.
As in any other field, your remuneration will rise with your years of experience. The best bait airlines use is to lure trained pilots by flashing huge salaries. That's one good reason for aspirants to reach for the skies.
Salaries of professionals
- Trainee pilot - Rs 15,000-20,000
- First officer (junior) - Rs 1 lakh and up
- First officer (senior) - Rs 1.8 lakh and up
- Commander - Rs 2.5 lakh and up