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Education in India, Career in India: Commercial Pilot

Looking for a Career Option as a Commercial Pilot ? This section features Commercial Pilot as a career option, elaborated with reference to the job profile, personality traits required, the courses and training involved, premier institutions and future prospects.

A commercial pilot basically flies aircraft carrying passenger or cargo or both, unlike an air force pilot who flies fighter aircraft defending the country from enemy attack. Flying aircraft is just one of the responsibilities of commercial pilots. It is one of the most adventurous careers. They have to well versed in meteorology, air navigation, and must know the intricacies of the equipment and instruments under their control. Pilots have to plan out flights, timings, schedules etc. They have to take safeguards against all eventualities such as adverse weather, loss of contact with air traffic control, sudden mechanical snags etc. They take all precautionary measures to ensure a smooth, trouble free flight. They are the captains in charge, who are responsible for the safety of the crew and passengers/cargo.

There are 2 distinct sectors in Indian Aviation Industry : Commercial and Military. Commercial aviation includes passenger airlines and cargo planes, international air services, air taxi and charter operations being major function. Military aviation includes the Indian Air Force and the aviation arms of the Navy and Army. The Commercial airlines have typical Organizational structure. This includes airlines operations, maintenance marketing and finance divisions. The job of pilot comes under the airlines operation division.

Personality Traits

Perfect physical health, mental and emotional stability and balance, a positive, meticulous, disciplined attitude, sense of responsibility, aptitude for scientific/technical study, mental and physical coordination, sense of adventurous, courage, the qualities of a leader and self confidence are important traits for someone planning to be a pilot.


Initially one obtains a student pilot license (SPL) from a government sponsored flying club in the country. The minimum eligibility sponsored for the SPL is matriculation examination and age should be above 16 years. An oral examination has to be taken in subjects related to aviation.

Before being permitted to start flying, one must acquire a private pilot license (PPL). Flying includes overall 60 hours of flying with cross-country and solo flying. In additional individuals have to pass theoretical examinations in subjects like air regulations, air navigations, aviation meteorology and aircraft engines.

A commercial pilot license (CPL) can be obtained only after acquiring a PPL. Flying clubs are equipped to provide a practical complement of the training for the CPL, which includes a further 190 hours of flying experience.

  1. Student Pilot License (SPL)

    This is an examination conducted by flying clubs in every State and covers papers in Air Regulations, Aviation Meteorology, Air Navigation Air Technical. It is a theory exam.

    1. Eligibility : Age of 16 years minimum and pass in class X. A medical certificate of fitness, security clearance and a bank guarantee of Rs.10,000 is required.
    2. Selection : Candidates taking the SPL test have to appear in an oral examination on a fixed day every month, candidates go through a medical test. Air Force Central Medical Establishment (AFCME), Subroto Park,New Delhi and Institute of Aviation Medicine(IAM), Vimanpura Bangalore, are the final authorities for medical fitness. After medical clearance the candidate gets the SPL. Candidates are also required to pass the Pilot Aptitude Test.

  2. Private pilot license (PPL)

    After getting the SPL the candidate accompanied by the flying instructor proceeds for initial flying training. This is a dual flight, where the instructor or trainer accompanies the learner to teach him the practical aspect of flying. Then the candidate gets his first independent flight normally after about 15 Hour of dual flying . This includes cross country flying. A total of 60 Hours of flying is needed of which 20 hour minimum should be solo and 5 hours cross country. Theory Exam-There is a theory examination also, the subjects are: Air Regulations, Aviation Meteorology, Air Navigation, Aircraft Engines, Seamanship.

    1. Eligibility : 10+2 and medical fitness certificate from AFCME OR IAM. The age requirement is 17 Years.
    2. Fees : Flying training is costly. Fees has increase over the years. Approximately Rs. 1000 are charged per hour for flying. Some States do subsidized the rates for the residents of the states. This fees may be revised from time to time.

  3. Commercial pilot license (CPL)

    A student can get the CPL by doing his flying training for 129 hours to complete 250 Hour of flying. Training facilities are available with Flying Clubs in India, Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Academy, Raibarelly, UP, Private Academies or Flying School in USA or Europe, Australia, Gulf,etc. Education eligibility : XII(physics and Maths), Non-Science students who started flying before jan1,1994 were eligible for 1996 admission. Current PPL Licence needed with flying experience in the last 3 year.

    1. Eligibility : 18 years to 30 years.
    2. Medical fitness : As granted by AFCME, New Delhi/IAM, Bangalore.
    3. Written Exam : A written exam in the following subjects is needed for getting the CPL: Air Regulations, aviation Meteorology, Air Navigation, Technical, Planning. These exams are conducted 6 times a year. Actual flying experience required - 250 hours of total flying time(150 hours of solo, 25 hours of cross country, 10 hours of instrument flying , 5 hours of night flying).

    CPL licence and training as a particular aircraft leads to a co-pilot assignment. Promotion depends as flying experience and vacancies. Co-pilots must have the required numbers of flying hours and licence. A pilot undergoes a never process of training. Proficiency tests have to be cleared almost thrice a year or more depending on the licence category and age of the pilot. The highest among the category of licences is the Air Transport Pilot Licence(ATPL) which allows the pilot to fly any type of aircraft. Licence has to be constantly renewed through passing medical and other tests every six months.

  4. Training of Helicopter Pilots

    Helicopter pilots need to have Commercial Helicopter Pilots Licence(CHPL). This licence can be aquired by two stages. The Private Helicopter Licence(PHPL) is granted after 40 hours of flying training (15 hours should be solo) and on clesring the written exams of aviation subjects. 60 hours of flying training has to be completed and a written exam has to cleared. Helicopter Pilots find employment with the commercial organisations, Public Sector organisation and other security/protective agencies.

Placements And Prospects

India has 2 major airlines, Indian Airlines and Air India, which offer work opportunities for pilots. This state monopoly over the skies has given the way to the entry of the private sector into the airline industry. The environment has turned competitive for the travelers as well as pilots as there are not many more jobs to choose from. Increasing privatization in Indian civil aviation has thrown up more job offers for trained pilots.

All airlines that recruit CPL holders also put them through their own in-house training programmes, which may stretch up to six months, a year or more. The cost of such training has to be borne by the trainee pilot either as a lump sum payment in advance or through installments from their salaries as trainees. Terms of appointment may differ from airline to airline. Although training to become a pilot is expansive and entry into the job market competitive, in the ultimate analysis, pilots enjoy high salaries and very good perquisites with opportunity to travel.

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