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India Issues Foreign Aircrew Authorizations amid Pilot Shortage

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DALLAS – According to India’s Civil Aviation Ministry (DGCA), there is a slight shortage of commanders on some types of commercial aircraft, and the issue is being addressed by using foreign pilots by providing Foreign Aircrew Temporary Authorizations (FATA).

For clarification of the DGCA’s language, “commander” is a legal term equal to “pilot in command” (PIC). The commander is responsible for the safety of the flight, and while “Captain” is an employment term, he or she is the commander of the aircraft.

AW_Alberto-Cucini-12-1024x682.jpgIndigo VT-IHO Airbus A320-214. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

FATA and CPL Holders

In response to a query in the Rajya Sabha, the aviation authority stated that as of June 30, 2022, there were 82 FATA-holders in India, as opposed to over 9,000 pilots working for Indian airlines.

As per a thehandsindia.com report, more pilots in India are getting their Commercial Pilot Licences (CPL) year by year. In 2021, the DGCA granted an all-time high of 862 CPLs. Prior to COVID-19, 744 CPLs (2019), 640 (2018), and 552 CPLs were issued (2017).

According to the ministry, there were 1.62 lakh flying hours total at Indian Flying Training Organizations (FTO) in 2021, as opposed to 1.20 lakh flying hours in the year before the pandemic.

The recovery finally came last year in spite of significant disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 second wave, Cyclones ‘Yaas’ and ‘Tauktae’, the early start of the monsoon season, and the increase in imported fuel prices.

Despite the aforementioned disruptions, the government-owned FTO, IGRUA (Amethi, UP) operated at an all-time high of 19,110 flying hours in 2021–22. In contrast, it flew 14,830 hours in 2019–20 and 14,039 hours in 2018–19 prior to the COVID-19 epidemic. According to the country’s aviation ministry, it is expected that both the number of FTOs and the annual production of pilots will rise even higher.

Sculpture_of_hasta_mudras_at_Indira_GandSculpture of hasta mudras at Indira Gandhi International Airport. Photo: Bharatahs, CC BY-SA 4.0

FTOs and Airport Operations

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) introduced a liberalized FTO policy in 2020 that eliminated airport royalty payments (revenue share payments made by FTOs to AAI) and considerably rationalized land rentals. Nine FTO slots were given to five airports in Belagavi (Karnataka), Jalgaon (Maharashtra), Kalaburagi (Karnataka), Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh), and Lilabari in 2021 following a competitive bidding process (Assam).

As of June 30, four of these FTOs had started commercial operations, including two at Kalaburagi and one each at Jalgaon and Lilabari.

Six additional FTO slots were given by the AAI in June 2022 at five airports, including Bhavnagar (Gujarat), Hubballi (Karnataka), Kadapa (Andhra Pradesh), Kishangarh (Rajasthan), and Salem (Tamil Nadu).

IMG_5118-1024x678.jpgAkasa Air’s new Boeing 737-8 MAX. Photo: Akasa Air.

Pilot Training in India

According to the government, pilot training in India is more affordable than that of FTOs in developed nations, with the latter being at least 40% more expensive.

Add to that the anticipated increase in FTOs in India, and the cost advantage of Indian FTOs is probably going to get better.

Featured image: Air India VT-ALN Boeing 777-337(ER). Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

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