The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) is hopeful that aspiring commercial pilots will soon be able to get trained in India without having to leave its shores. In this regard, the government has announced setting up eight new flying academies across five airports — Belagavi and Kalaburagi in Karnataka, Jalgaon in Maharashtra, Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, and Lilabari in Assam.
Under the Narendra Modi government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat plan, these Flying Training Organisations (FTOs) are being set up to prevent aspiring commercial pilots from having to receive training abroad, news website ThePrint reported.
Firms including Asia-Pacific, Jetserve, Redbird, Samvardhane and Skynex have won bids to start these new flying academies.
Eight Flying Schools
“These are Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects where land is leased out to the winning FTOs at throwaway prices for 25 years. The entire year’s rent payable to AAI (Airports Authority of India) is around half the fee of just one cadet,” MoCA Joint Secretary Ambar Dubey told ThePrint.
Mr. Dubey was quoted as saying that the concept of airport royalty or revenue share to AAI has been abolished. “There can’t be a bigger statement of intent by the government,” he said.
The Modi government wants to ensure that these academies will be at par with top FTOs from across the world in terms of fleet, infrastructure and instructors.
“The exodus of cadets will be reversed under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan at any cost,” Mr. Dubey said, adding that India will take three years to become a flying training hub.
Haryana Government Interested
Not just the Central government, but also several state governments are considering establishing flying schools on a PPP-model etc.
The Haryana government for instance is exploring the possibility of running flying schools on public-private partnership (PPP) at four locations in the state, for two of which location tenders have been allotted. This was revealed at a meeting of the Civil Aviation Department Tuesday headed by Deputy CM Dushyant Chautala, The Indian Express said.
At the meeting, the Deputy CM also directed officials to explore the possibility of developing a heliport and an aero museum along the Dwarka Expressway. “Tenders have been signed for running flying schools in Mahendergarh and Bhiwani on PPP basis, and the possibility of running such schools in Karnal and Pinjore is being explored,” Mr. Chautala said.
Officials also discussed the development of an International Aviation Centre in Hisar and revamping of all existing airstrips. “The aviation hub being prepared in Hisar will give opportunity to other industries of aerospace and defense sector,” he said.
As of August 2020, India had 32 FTOs approved by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), which trained around 500-550 pilots annually, as enumerated above.
But training in India can take up to three years to finish what international schools teach in 8-12 months. An absence of a streamlined regulatory process also hinders potential growth.
800 Licences Each Year
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation, issues about 800 commercial pilot licences every year. Of these, around 30 per cent are given to pilots who have undergone flying training at a school abroad.
The decision to open the academies was taken on the recommendations of a committee of experts headed by the former Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Fali H. Major. Last March, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri informed the Rajya Sabha that “flying training operations at these airports will help increase the number of commercial pilots produced every year within India”.
The Airports Authority of India had invited bids for establishing flying training schools in November 2020. To make the setting up of schools attractive for the bidders, the Airports Authority of India significantly reduced the minimum annual rental to Rs.15 lakh. It also scrapped the concept of airport royalty. The award letters were issued on May 31 to the winning bidders.
Currently, India’s scheduled airlines employ over 9,000 pilots. As per Civil Aviation Ministry projections, over the next five years India will require 9,488 more pilots.