Can the Indian Air Force solve aviation companies’ pilot crunch?

The Indian government has finally stepped in to help the country’s struggling aviation industry.

Last week, Usha Padhee, the joint secretary in the ministry of civil aviation, discussed with defence personnel the viability of fighter pilots switching over to commercial flying. The plan, if implemented, could help tackle the acute pilot shortage that has been crippling the aviation sector for months now.

Experts say this may be a great idea since the transition from defence to civil aviation is a pretty simple process.

Air force pilots are trained in key factors including extreme weather conditions and other intense possibilities that commercial pilots need to be acquainted with. All they need is the basic orientation regarding the kind of plane they are required to fly,” a retired IAF (Indian Air Force) officer, who asked not to be named, told Quartz. “Hence, hiring them will save airlines the huge cost and time that goes into training.”

The plan will not only fulfil the current shortage but also expedite future fleet expansion plans of aviation companies.
This is certainly not the first time that the IAF has stepped in to help civil aviation companies.

“There are sufficient first officers (co-pilots), but there is an acute shortage of commanders (pilots), which can be met once senior pilots from the IAF are moved to civilian aircraft,” Jitendra Bhargava, former executive director of Air India, told the Hindustan Times. “Air India has taken the help of defence pilots in the past to meet its needs,” he added.
Besides the national carrier, state-owned helicopter service Pawan Hans also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the IAF, in April 2018, to hire pilots, when it was facing a staff shortage.

Now, private airlines, too, are in the same difficult situation.
The issue came to the fore in February this year when India’s leading airline by market share, IndiGo, cancelled over 30 flights a day owing to a pilot crunch. The budget carrier had been adding aircraft rapidly to its fleet since September last year.

29/05/19 Niharika Sharma/Quartz

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