NEW DELHI: The skies are expected to get greyer. We’re not talking about weather conditions, but the increase in the number of pilots above the age of 60 in Indian skies.
In a bid to ease the acute shortage of pilots, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has streamlined the process for foreign pilots to get licences to operate in the country.
This means that pilots in the US who are barred from flying commercial aircraft after the age of 60 could be at the controls in India where the age limit is 65 years.
The government is desperate to attract more foreign pilots to make up for the huge deficit airlines are facing. Senior ministry officials said that information on all relevant documents required to be furnished by foreign pilots is now available on the web and they can get a licence to fly Indian carriers in a matter of days against the long wait earlier.
According to Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, the preset requirement of type-rated pilots for scheduled, non-scheduled and private operators is 4,754 but only 3,950 Indian type-rated pilots are available.
“The shortfall is being met with foreign pilots. Currently, 804 foreign pilots are employed with various airlines,” he said in reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
The largest number of foreign pilots — 263 — is employed by Jet Airways, 148 by Air Deccan, 96 by Kingfisher, 74 by IndiGo and 45 by SpiceJet.
On the recent reports that the ministry has allowed American pilots over 60 years of age to fly in India, officials pointed out that since the age limit for flying commercial aircraft in India was 65, there was technically nothing wrong in allowing pilots in that age bracket from any other country to fly here.
“Besides, existing rules lay down that the second pilot (each flight has two) must be below 60 years of age if the first one is above the age of 60.
“In most countries, pilots from the US who have crossed 60 years are allowed to fly anyway,” officials said.