Friday, August 05, 2022

Is Indian aviation facing a manpower shortage?

Mumbai: In a rather surprising move, Air India on Monday said it would give contracts to pilots, post their superannuation for flying till the age of 65. While the DGCA allows pilots to fly till they are 65 years, airlines usually have their current retirement age at 58. Does extending the age limit show that there aren't enough experienced pilots out there? And does a 65-year-old pilot pose a risk to passenger safety?

While speaking to ET NOW, Jitendra Bhargava, Former Air India Exec Director said that there shouldn't be any concerns raised regarding safety as pilots have to regularly undergo medical tests only after which they are permitted to fly. "If there is a shortage of pilots and we know the training of pilots costs a lot, then the easier course is to give extension to pilots, especially for long haul flights. But we must put across that it does not impair the safety element because pilots have to undergo tests every 6 months. And even DGCA permits pilots to fly till 65 years of age."

Capt. Amit Singh, Founder, Safety Matters Foundation was quick to point out that the 58-year limit came into being at Air India mostly because it was a PSU up until now. "The 58 yrs age cap was determined for PSU employees as they would retire by 55 or 58. It has nothing to do with the flying aspect or the skill of a pilot. They(pilots) can fly till 65 as per international standards and which is followed by DGCA. Not surprised then that an airline (AI) which is embarking on an expansion drive will try to hold on to their pilots and not let them go to other airlines".

In fact, Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia in a reply to parliament mentioned that there is a 'marginal shortage of commanders of certain types of aircraft but no shortage of commercial pilots. He added that there were about 862 commercial pilot licenses issued in 2021 which was an all-time high. In fact, India has about 9000 licensed commercial pilots operating currently. So where is the shortage really and how are we to overcome it?

04/08/22 Stacy Linera Pereira/ETNow

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