Expat pilots may continue to fly Indian aircraft despite the gover nment’s repeated attempts to increase employment opportunities for local pilots.
On Friday, the civil aviation ministry permitted domestic carriers an additional three years to engage foreign pilots.
According to the circular issued by the DGCA, scheduled airlines could use expat commanders up to December 2016. Earlier, the safety regulator had given airlines time till the end of 2013 to phase out expat pilots.
Air safety experts blamed airlines’ failure to convert copilots into commanders for this extension. “It clearly indicates that, despite several warnings, airlines failed to produce enough commanders,” said Captain Mohan Ranganathan, a member of the government-appointed Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council (CASAC).
He added that the government should stop issuing circulars if it fails to implement them.
Till December 2012, India had 340 expat pilots, down from 526 in 2011. Jet Airways had the highest number of expat pilots (93).
The move will further narrow prospects of around 4,000 unemployed pilots in India. “There seems to be a nexus with expat pilot-placement agencies and airlines, and the government is turning a blind eye to this,” said an Airbus A320 commander, who is currently unemployed.
This is not the first time that the government has extended its deadline.
It first set July 2010 as the deadline to phase out expat pilots, revised it by a year, and later set 2013 as the deadline, said experts.
“It is sad that the government does not care about young pilots,” said a member of the Unemployed Pilots Welfare Association (WPWA), a Delhibased body.