Air India will require more than 6,500 pilots to operate 470 aircraft that are to be supplied by Airbus and Boeing in the coming years, according to industry sources.
Seeking to expand fleet as well as operations, the airline has placed orders for acquiring a total of 840 aircraft that includes an option to buy 370 planes. This is one of the largest aircraft order by any airline.
Currently, Air India has around 1,600 pilots to operate its 113 aircraft fleet and in recent times, there have been instances of ultra-long haul flights getting cancelled or delayed due to shortage of crew.
The airline’s two subsidiaries — Air India Express and AirAsia India — together have around 850 pilots for flying their 54 planes while the joint venture Vistara has more than 600 pilots. The latter has a fleet of 53 aircraft, one of the sources told PTI.
Air India, Air India Express, Vistara and AirAsia India together have little over 3,000 pilots to operate the combined fleet of 220 aircraft.
The latest Airbus firm order comprises 210 A320/321 Neo/XLR and 40 A350-900/1000. The Boeing firm order comprises 190 737-Max, 20 787s and 10 777s.
“Air India is taking these 40 A350 majorly for its ultra long-haul routes or flights which lasts over 16 hours. The airline will require 30 pilots — 15 commanders and 15 first officers — per aircraft, which means some 1,200 pilots for A350s alone,” the source in the know said.
According to the source, 26 pilots are required for one Boeing 777. If the airline inducts 10 such planes, it will require 260 pilots while 20 Boeing 787 will require some 400 pilots considering that each such aircraft needs 20 pilots — 10 commanders and 10 first officers.
Taken together, the induction of 30 wide-body Boeing planes will require a total of 660 pilots, the sources said.
On an average, each narrow-body plane, whether it is Airbus A320 family or Boeing 737 Max, requires 12 pilots, implying that 400 such planes in the fleet will require not less than 4,800 pilots for their operations.
On Thursday, Air India Chief Commercial Officer Nipun Agarwal in a Linkedin post said “the order comprises 470 firm aircraft, 370 options and purchase rights to be procured from Airbus and Boeing over the next decade”.
According to Air India’s former Commercial Director Pankaj Shrivastava, enough opportunities have to be created for the Commercial Pilots Licence (CPL) holders to get them type rated.
Type ratings is a particular training that makes a pilot qualify to operate a particular type of aircraft.
“Air India would definitely have some plan in place. They would not be buying these planes to put them on ground,” he said.
These aircraft are not going to be inducted tomorrow but over a period of time. During that period, Shrivastava said that he was confident that Boeing and Airbus along with Air India will be able to create a large enough pool of pilots by having in place the required number of flight simulators and pilots training.
Air India earlier this year announced its plans to set up a training academy, which is a new initiative for the Tata Group.
The academy, being headed by AirAsia India former CEO Sunil Bhaskaran, will rival the biggest and the best anywhere in the world, Air India Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Campbell Wilson had said.
“Over the coming years, the ambitious new Air India and aviation industry generally will require thousands of home-grown pilots, engineers, cabin crew, airport managers and other function specialists. As India’s flagship airline, we have the need and duty to develop this talent,” he had said earlier. PTI IAS RAM ANU ANU
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