India PilotsDuring the last few months global media has been escalating the alarming situation in India. One may recall the recent story when a pilot’s mother stormed into the cockpit after failing to get a free ticket or an incident when business class passengers claimed to have been ejected from their seats to make way for staff members’ families. The latest Air India pilots’ strike was the longest in the country’s history. Other alarming events include the strike held by the pilots of Kingsfisher Airlines, as well as cheating pilots during Boeing 787 training and many more.

During the Air India strike, pilots demanded higher salaries, faster promotions, first-class travel whist off duty and the right to be promoted to pilot commanders within six years. While the Air India pilots were striking from May, the news that India’s civil aviation minister was exploring the option of terminating the jobs of a majority of Air India pilots and hiring fresh recruits has alarmed many in the airline industry who fear that flight safety will suffer.

‘Replacing 400-odd company-experienced pilots with fresh recruits could have repercussions on flight safety. All airlines follow different Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). Having a mixed crew in a cockpit increases the probability of Cockpit Crew Resource Management failure. With fresh recruits, there is always the possibility of their past airline training rearing its head unexpectedly during an emergency, when split-second decisions need to be taken,’ says Skaiste Knyzaite, the CEO at

Another problem, which is also getting more and more prominent in India, is pilot’s shortage. According to the Boeing’s Pilot and Technician Outlook, in spite of the economic slow-down all over the world, the number of aircraft in the global fleet will nearly double by 2030 calling for additional 466,650 trained pilots. Moreover, International Civil Aviation Organization forecasts that Asia will be short of about 9,000 pilots a year. Although the country has a domestic supply of approximately 3,000 pilots with the necessary training, they are not experienced enough to be captains on flights. And with the demand for air travel recovering in the region, and many carriers looking to expand, India must continue to rely on foreign pilots.

‘Practically, today India has over 3000 to 4000 unemployed CPLs. With the dwindling revenues of airlines the country is investing too little into long-term training and induction plan for fresh pilots. The government or airlines expect the CPL holders to undertake Type Training at their own expense with no job guarantees. If local airlines continue to minimize manpower retention costs, we foresee a vacuum, as a significant portion of new hires will be needed to replace pilots who will leave the workforce through retirement and attrition over the next two decades,’ commented S. Knyzaite.

Although aviation in Asia is the most promising, the aviation market in India faces serious troubles. However, today airlines have an opportunity to develop various backup plans to maintain their fleets operating 24/7 no matter what. Amongst others, one of the solutions could be outsourcing pilot recruitment or leasing, especially since there is a growing number of third-party crew management agencies.

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