The aviation industry in India has seen a surge in new airline companies entering the fray. And, this growth has, in turn, not only resulted in a shortage of pilots but also that of cabin and ground crew.
In his report, 'Crisis in the cockpit: Indian carriers stare at pilot shortage', published in the Economic Times (11 Jul 2018), Anirban Chowdhury says, "Over the next year or so, as many as 1,000 pilots may be needed to fly new aircraft as they are added to the schedules, rising to 10,000 in a decade…"
With so many job opportunities expected to come up in the near future, this is perhaps the right time for youngsters to enter the aviation industry.
And, while you and your child mull over whether she should join the aviation industry, here are ten facts and terms that both of you should be familiar with:
- Civil aviation: This term refers to all flights or airplanes used either for personal or commercial (passenger or cargo) purposes. In other words, it includes all airplanes other than those used by the armed forces.
- Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA): This is the government body for regulating the safety aspects of civil aviation in India. It functions under the Ministry of Civil Aviation. Some of its responsibilities include certifying aircraft operators, granting licenses to flight crew and aerodromes, investigating accidents, and formulating standards for the Indian aviation industry. There are various departments within the DGCA, some of them being administration, air safety, air transport and flight standards. The headquarters of DGCA is located in New Delhi, but it has regional offices in several cities around the country. When enrolling in an aviation training centre in India, make sure that it is recognised by the DGCA.
- Pilot training: Flying an aircraft is a highly specialised job. Not only does a pilot need to know how to fly an aircraft but also how to interpret weather reports, navigate with the help of various navigation aids, and handle other sophisticated instruments. Pilot training prepares an aspirant to handle all these. Those who want to learn flying as a hobby can obtain a Private Pilot Licence (PPL). A PPL is obtained after undergoing basic training, passing the required theory exams on a range of subjects and obtaining a certain number of flying hours from a recognised aviation centre. It allows the holder to pilot an aircraft privately. To apply for a PPL in India, an individual should be at least 16 years old and should have passed the class 10 or equivalent examination. A Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), which allows the holder to fly commercial aircraft, can be obtained after a candidate has received a PPL, has passed class 12 or an equivalent examination with maths and physics as mandatory subjects, and has attained the age of 18 years. In addition, a candidate must also obtain Class 1 and 2 medical certificates.
- Class 1 and 2 medical certificates: These involve undergoing a group of medical tests performed by DGCA-approved doctors. A class 2 certificate is a must to join a flying school, while a class 1 certificate can be obtained later during the training period. One of the most important tests is the vision exam — candidates must have perfect 6/6 vision in at least one eye. The other eye is allowed an imperfection of 6/9, but it must be correctable to 6/6. Other tests include those for hearing, cholesterol, heart and lung functions. Psychometric evaluations and an electroencephalogram are also conducted. The medical evaluation should be carried out by DGCA-approved medical examiners only.
- Helicopter pilots: Unlike for airplanes, helicopter pilots are only trained for the type of helicopter they wish to fly, and they obtain a licence only for that specific type. In case the pilot wishes to obtain a license to fly another type of helicopter, she would need to complete a refresher course. The licences to fly helicopters are also categorised as PPL (Helicopters) and CPL (Helicopters).
- Flight instructors: These are individuals who are responsible for training others to fly an aircraft. Anyone who wishes to become a flight instructor has to first obtain an Assistant Flight Instructor licence. This can be done after obtaining the CPL. To complete a flying instructor's course, an individual must acquire at least 200 hours of flying time as a pilot in command of an aircraft, of which 50 hours should have been clocked in the past six months. Apart from this, one must also pass the necessary medical evaluation.
- Military pilots: Becoming a pilot in the Coast Guard, the Border Security Force or the Air Force are also some of the options available to aspiring aviators. These, however, are roles in government agencies and a career here would entail a different training process. Although one can apply for the role of a Coast Guard pilot after acquiring a CPL, the candidate must undergo training specific to the role. To be a pilot in the Indian Air Force, however, the path is entirely different. The candidate must apply through the National Defence Academy on successful completion of class 12 examinations. Else, after obtaining a degree, the candidate must appear for the required examinations for the Defence Services or through the National Cadet Corps (NCC) Special Entry Scheme. The main test here is the Pilot Aptitude Battery Test, which one needs to clear before being admitted to an Air Force Academy. This test can be attempted only once in a lifetime.
- Air traffic controller: Although it is the pilots who fly an aircraft, someone needs to give them landing and take-off instructions, and coordinate the movements of airplanes on the runways and taxiways, as well as in the air. This responsibility rests on the shoulders of the air traffic controllers. Their other responsibilities include informing pilots about the weather and runway conditions, and alerting the response staff in case of any emergency.
- Official civil aviation language: On 1 January 2008, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) determined that English would be the official language for civil aviation. All pilots, air traffic controllers as well as flight crew members of international airlines should be proficient in English. During the course of their training, candidates also undergo coaching in English language and have to pass the required ICAO Level 4 English Language proficiency test.
- Flight hours: This refers to the number of hours a pilot spends flying an aircraft in the sky. Obtaining a PPL or a CPL requires the candidate to accumulate a specific number of flight hours, which must include certain hours of solo flying, dual flying and cross-country flying in various types of airplanes and from a recognised flying school.
Your child has various options to choose from when it comes to pursuing a career in the aviation industry. So, help him research and find out the type of jobs that exist in the aviation sector, and the responsibilities that are a part of each job. Remember, while giving your child the freedom to choose his own path, do offer him the necessary support and guidance to make the right decision.
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