Time to phase out expat pilots extended: Praful Patel

Time to phase out expat pilots extended: Praful Patel

New Delhi: The government has extended the time-frame for phasing out foreign pilots employed by Indian carriers by one year, civil aviation minister Praful Patel said on 20 April.

The move came in the wake of demands by Air India and other airlines that the time be extended beyond 31 July 2010, he said during Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha.

“The existing policy for validation of foreign (pilots) licences is valid up to 31 July 2010. Directorate general of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had requested airline operators to submit their plan for phasing out expatriate pilots along with net requirement of these pilots beyond that date," he said.

Following the demand, the government has approved extension for one year beyond that date, Patel said, adding that the number of Indian pilots was bound to go up as the aviation sector is looking up post-recession.

He said that since 2008, the number of foreign pilots has considerably come down and gradually Indian pilots, who have mostly been co-pilots, would soon be elevated to the status of commanding pilots.

Overseas pilots were allowed to fly Indian aircraft initially as during 2004-05 there was stagnation in the aviation sector, he said. However, after the sector started looking up. In order to maintain the momentum, foreign pilots continued to be inducted.

The DGCA has started a programme for phased reduction of the expat pilots. In 2008 there were 944 such pilots, whose number fell to 686 in 2009 and till January 2010, there were only 562 foreign pilots.

“I am sure this number must have further gone down. Once foreign pilots are phased out, greater number of Indian pilots would gradually be elevated to the status of commanding pilots," Patel said.

To a query about several Indian pilots currently without work, Patel said, “I understand the sentiments. It is a fact that many pilots were rendered jobless due to recession. We regularly receive requests for work from them.

“However, things are gradually improving in the aviation sector in the post-recession period. The growth of the sector in coming days will lead to greater opportunities for them," he said.

Patel said Indian pilots are capable of flying under any condition and their training and qualification can be compared to the best in the world.