There is a marginal shortage of commanders on certain types of aircraft and the same is being managed by utilising foreign pilots by issuing Foreign Aircrew Temporary Authorisation (FATA), said the Civil aviation ministry on Monday.
While replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha, the ministry said that there were 82 FATA-holders in India as on June 30, 2022, as compared to over 9,000 pilots employed with airlines in India.
The number of pilots receiving their Commercial Pilot Licences (CPL) in India is increasing every year. DGCA issued 862 CPLs in 2021, an all-time high. The number of CPLs issued prior to Covid-19 were 744 (2019), 640 (2018) and 552 (2017).
The ministry said that the total number of flying hours at Indian Flying Training Organisations (FTO) increased from 1.20 lakh hours in the pre-Covid year (2019) to 1.62 lakh hours in 2021. The improvement in 2021 is despite severe disruptions due to the Covid-19 second wave, Cyclone ‘Yaas’, Cyclone ‘Tauktae’, early onset of monsoons and rising cost of imported aviation fuel.
The government-owned FTO – IGRUA (Amethi, UP) — operated at an all-time high of 19,110 flying hours in 2021-22, despite the severe disruptions mentioned above. In comparison, before Covid-19 pandemic, it operated 14,830 flying hours in 2019- 20 and 14,039 flying hours in 2018-19. The number of FTOs and the annual production of pilots is likely to increase further, added the ministry.
In 2020, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) came up with a liberalised FTO policy wherein airport royalty payments (revenue share payment by FTOs to AAI) was abolished and land rentals were significantly rationalised. In 2021, after a competitive bidding process, AAI awarded nine FTO slots at five airports at Belagavi (Karnataka), Jalgaon (Maharashtra), Kalaburagi (Karnataka), Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh) and Lilabari (Assam).
As on June 30, four of these FTOs — two at Kalaburagi and one each at Jalgaon and Lilabari — have commenced commercial operations. In June 2022, after a competitive bidding process, six more FTO slots were awarded by AAI at five airports namely: Bhavnagar (Gujarat), Hubballi (Karnataka), Kadapa (Andhra Pradesh), Kishangarh (Rajasthan) and Salem (Tamil Nadu).
The ministry said that the cost of pilot training in India is cost-competitive as compared to FTOs in leading countries, with the latter being at least 40 per cent costlier. With the planned increase in the number of FTOs in India, the cost advantage of Indian FTOs is likely to improve further.