Does Your Child Dream of Becoming a Pilot?

A career as a pilot is both exciting and fulfilling. On the International Civil Aviation Day, we explain the various criteria necessary to obtain a flying licence and become a pilot.

By Amrita Gracias

Does Your Child Dream of Becoming a Pilot?

Asha smiles as she hears the all-too familiar and exhilarating sound of the roaring jet engines. She looks up into the sky just in time to see the aeroplane soar high into the clouds. She closes her eyes and pictures herself at the console in the cockpit, listening to the instructions from the control tower and directing her co-pilot to climb to an altitude of 20,000 feet while making sure to avoid a thunder cloud! Asha is all but 14, but is quite sure that she wants to train to be a pilot once she finishes her schooling.

A career as a pilot is most definitely an exciting and gratifying one. Apart from being able to travel around the world, one also gets to handle the sophisticated airplanes that are equipped with the latest technology and navigation systems. “Do remember, however, that the job entails long and odd hours of work; this necessitates complete motivation and dedication,” explains a senior airline pilot.

So, does your child have a passion for flying and does he aspire to become a pilot too? Here is the basic know-how of what it takes for your child to realise these dreams.

Educational criteria

To apply for a Private Pilot Licence (PPL), a child should have cleared his Class 10 examinations. And, for a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), he should have cleared the Plus Two exams with Maths and Physics being mandatory subjects. The selection to the PPL and CPL training is based on an entrance exam that includes aptitude tests in English, General Knowledge, Mathematics and Physics.

Training criterion

To obtain a PPL and a CPL, one can apply to an aviation training centre recognised by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in India.

First, one must obtain a PPL for which he must be a minimum of 16 years of age. The licence can be acquired once he has 60 hours of flying experience, which must include 20 hours of dual flying. Apart from this, he must also clear theory exams at the end of the training. Subjects include air regulations, aviation meteorology, air navigation, aircraft engines and seamanship.

Cost: About 8–10 lakhs (in India)

Next, one is required to obtain a CPL for which she must be a minimum of 18 years of age. She must acquire 250 hours of flight experience during the training, which includes the 60 hours accumulated while obtaining her PPL. The 250 hours must also include dual flying (20 hours), solo flying (150 hours), cross-country flying (25 hours) and height flying. She then needs to clear the theory exams for subjects that include air regulations, aviation meteorology, air navigation, aircraft engines, cockpit resource management and map projections to name a few. The training and flying hours must also involve exposure to a range of various airplanes like two-seater planes or twin-engine planes.

Cost: About 30–40 lakhs (in India)

Some airlines even demand training in simulators of Airbus 320 and Boeing 737. This could cost an additional 30 lakhs. One is required to undergo routine flying tests and medical check-ups to keep the CPL valid. The flying tests may vary depending on the type of planes that one pilots.

Flying schools and training institutes

There are several flying schools both in India and abroad where flying licences may be obtained. Flying hours can be obtained faster (in about 8 – 12 months) abroad as they have several planes for training, which enables one to acquire a licence sooner. In India, the same could take up to three years. Do make sure that an international flying school is genuine and recognised by the civil aviation authority in that particular country. However, if one obtains a CPL abroad and wishes to apply for a job in India, he will have to write an additional exam and acquire additional flying hours to validate the licence.

Once an individual is employed with an airline, he will be required to get further specialised training from time to time. This cost is however usually borne by the employer.

Top flying schools in India

  • Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi (IGRUA), Raebareli, UP
  • Rajiv Gandhi National Flight Training Institute (originally established as Kerala Flying Club), Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
  • Bombay Flying Club, Mumbai, Maharashtra
  • National Flying Training Institute (established by CAE Oxford in India), Gondia, MP
  • Chimes Aviation Academy, Dhana Sagar, MP

Top institutions abroad

  • CAE Oxford Aviation Academy – centres in Belgium, Australia, UK and USA
  • CTC Wings – centres in Europe
  • Flight Safety Academy, Florida, USA
  • Singapore Flying College, Singapore
  • Pan AM International Flying Academy, Florida, USA

Skill set required

A pilot’s job, although exciting, is demanding, no doubt. Here are some of the skills one should have to meet the requisites of the job, as described by a senior pilot.

  • Discipline and commitment
  • Physical and mental fitness
  • Alert mind
  • Ability to respond to crisis situations
  • Technical knowledge
  • Good communication skills
  • Ability to work with a team
  • Self-confidence
  • Leadership skills
  • Willingness to learn

Medical criteria

In order to obtain a CPL, one must obtain Class I and Class II Medial Fitness Certifications. These tests must be performed by DGCA-approved doctors. A Class II Medical Certificate is necessary to join a flying school while a Class I medical certificate can be obtained during the training tenure. The medical check-up includes a general inquiry about one’s medical history along with tests for eyesight, hearing, heart and lung functions, cholesterol and haemoglobin among others. With regard to eyesight, it is imperative to have perfect vision in one eye, or 6/6 eyesight. The other eye is allowed an imperfection of 6/9; however, it must be correctable to 6/6. Specialised tests like an electroencephalogram (EEG) have also been made compulsory to rule out any problems related to brain activity. Psychometric evaluations are also included in this process.

A pilot is also required to undergo routine medical tests throughout his career, which he must clear in order to keep his licence valid.

Career prospects

Do keep in mind that a CPL does not guarantee a job with an airline. There are several air travel options as well – airline passenger planes, air freight or cargo planes, corporate planes or even special charter planes. One can even choose to become a flight instructor. A pilot is first recruited as a trainee pilot after which he will be promoted to First Officer, Second Officer, Co-pilot, Captain and finally to the highest rank of Commander.

Government agencies like the Coast Guard, Border Security Force and Military also offer exciting career opportunities for those who aspire to become pilots.

Air force pilots

The Flying Branch of the Indian Air Force is an excellent option as well for those who wish to serve in the military. If your child wishes to apply immediately after he completes his class 12 examinations, he can apply to the National Defence Academy (NDA). The training at NDA lasts for 3 years after which he will be posted as a pilot at an Air Force station.

Or, he can choose to complete his graduation first, after which he can enter the Air Force by any one of the following modes:

  • clearing the Combined Defence Services Exams (CDSE)
  • joining the Short Service Commission (SSC)
  • entering the National Cadet Corps (NCC) Special Entry scheme

These institutes also have various criteria to be cleared before one can be allowed to train as an Air Force pilot. However, one needs to clear the crucial Pilot Aptitude Battery Test before being admitted to an Air Force academy. More importantly, you can appear for this test only once in a lifetime. The test checks one’s mental abilities, technical proficiency and potential to qualify as a military pilot.

The aviation industry offers some of the highest paid jobs. Travelling by air has now become rather common and with the increase in the number of flight operators, job opportunities are aplenty too. A career as a pilot is most certainly an adventurous and a lucrative one. So, encourage your child to pursue it. After all, the sky is the limit!


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