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Aviation sector: Soaring opportunities

In the past few years, aviation has emerged as one of the hottest sectors in the country. The emergence of the low-budget (no-frills) airlines like Air Deccan, Kingfisher, Air Sahara, SpiceJet and Paramount has led to a keen competition not only among them but also between them and the regular airlines, both domestic and international. Airline companies both in the public and the private sectors are buying more and more airplanes to add to their fleet, either through direct purchase or leasing them from aviation companies .

As a result of this competition, there are been a considerable fall in air ticket prices, which has made air travel affordable for the common man. Also, as the economy is consistently doing well, it has provided the burgeoning Indian middle-class with endless opportunities and subsequently enough disposable income to spend on air travel.

Demand and supply gap not met, yet

The industry would expand by 25-30 percent this business year to March 2006 and by 25 percent a year over the next five years.

The Center for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) estimates India's domestic airlines would need 650 new aircraft by 2012, up from the current 210.

Also, CAPA estimates India will need a further 3,000 pilots. Domestic airlines, losing pilots to international carriers, are being forced to consider a 20% pay hike. An Indian airline captain gets paid $10,000 to $12,000 monthly (an outrageously large sum by Indian standards) while a foreign pilot gets $14,000 to $15,000 per month. India churns out only about 150 pilots every year from its 22 training schools, which are also short of trainers.

Government initiatives

In India, the industry, which has seen the arrival of more than a dozen low-budget airlines, is suffering serious growth problems, from inadequate infrastructure to struggles to meet surging demand. Delays, safety, customer satisfaction and operational headaches worry the industry. India's booming aviation business needs more airports, pilots, flight crew and less-stressed air traffic controllers. With Indian airports handling nearly 60 million passengers in 2004/05, compared with 40 million a year earlier, the need for revamps is pressing.

India's rapidly expanding air travel industry is likely to need USD$50 billion in investment in planes and infrastructure over the next decade to cope with rising demand, Praful Patel, the civil aviation minister said recently at the Dubai Air Show. "The investment in this sector is going to be one of the highest in the country," Patel told reporters according to leading newspapers of the country. "We will see investments of more than USD$30 billion by 2012 and USD$50 billion in 10 years."

Employment scenario

There will be huge demand for pilots, cabin crew, maintenance engineersand ground staffin the coming years. Take a few examples.

The Indian Airlineshas been mandated to buy 43 new aircraft. The airline wants to hire 200 pilots, 400 cabin crew and 300 maintenance engineers. Air-Indiawas very recently given government approval to buy 68 new aircraft. Post expansion, the airline may have to hire 100 pilots every year, besides 2,000 cabin crew and 1,000 engineers to maintain the airline’s fleet.

Kingfisher has recently decided to buy 50 more airlines. The carrier should hire nearly 500 pilots in the next five years, besides 1,500 cabin crew. Jetis expected to hire nearly 600 pilots, 2,200 cabin crew and 800 engineers over a five-year period. Air Sahara, Go, Paramount, Air Deccan, Spice Jet are also expected to hire a considerable number of skilled manpower in the coming years.

Colleges/Courses

A question many aspiring pilots ask is “what does it take?” – What is needed to become a pilot? Many still think you need special skills to pilot an airplane. And that you have to be extremely smart and have senses no-one else has.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Though many pilots are smart all of them are just normal humans with a passion for flying. If you just want to learn how to fly for fun then there really are no requirements besides being able to read, write, talk and pass a medical test.

In theory this also applies to commercial pilots, but the requirements set by the flight schools are far below what the airlines require. In general you should have at least a high school diploma or equivalent and you will have a benefit if you got advanced Math and Physics classes. This is because the flight theory includes a lot of Physics. Also basic Math skills are used all the time in flying.

If you are aiming for the airlines some of them may even want you to have at least a two or four year degree from college. But this is all depending on demand for pilots, company policy and nationality of the airline and is therefore never an absolute.

However it is common for airlines to give you different tests with an aviation psychologist during the interview process. It is like an advanced IQ test specially made for the aviation industry. Testing like this can take from one to a couple of days and will evaluate your ability and potential as a pilot.

Buying a test like this from an aviation psychologist before starting your training can be a cheap and valuable investment. Some flight schools in Europe even require you to have taken such a test with a minimum score before they let you start training. The aviation psychologist will give you a certificate to add to your resume/application. “Anyone can learn how to fly, just some use more time and money then others.”

Here is the list of some flight training schools and institutes in India. 

  • Hindustan Institute of Engineering Technology, P.O. Calcutta Airport, Calcutta-700 052  
  • Air Technical Training Institute, P.B. No. 1308, G.S.T. Road, ST. Thomas Mount, Madras-600 016
  • School of Aviation Science & Technology, Delhi Flying Club, Safdarjung Airport, New Delhi-110 003
  • Aeronautical Training Centre India, Div. of Airworks India, Mumbai Airport, Mumbai
  • Bombay Flying Club, Juhu Aerodrome, Santacruz (West), Mumbai - 400049
  • BSF Institute of Technology, P.O. Yelahanka, AFS, Bangalore 560 063
  • Aeronautical Training Insitute, Lucknow Airport, Lucknow (UP)
For those interested in doing B.E. or B.Tech in Aeronautical Engineering, here is a list of some premier colleges of the country.
  • IIT ( Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kanpur, Roorkee, Kharagpur, Guwahati)
  • Bihar Institute of Technology, Sindri, Ranchi
  • Anna University, Chennai
  • Nehru College of Aeronautics and Applied Sciences, Coimbatore
  • Mohammad Sathak Engineering College, Kilakarai, Tamilnadu

For air hostess and steward and other cabin crew job training programs, you can check out the possibilities in your nearest town/city. As such training institutes are mushrooming in every nook and cranny, it’s important for students to ensure that they provide training of the highest quality, thus preparing you for a great career ahead.

For Comments: psjamwal@amity.edu

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