Planning a major fleet expansion programme, state-owned Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd has signed deals for 10 helicopters and would soon start recruiting pilots from the Indian Navy.
PHHL has signed a contract with Eurocopter for buying three single-engine AS 350 B3 Ecureuil utility helicopters and a memorandum for seven Dauphin AS 365 N3 choppers, subject to government approvals, its officials said.
The firm is also in the process of wet-leasing one MI-172 helicopter soon to be deployed in Jammu and Kashmir, they said. The public sector company at present has a fleet of 36 helicopters comprising 18 SA-365N Dauphin, nine Dauphin AS365 N3, three Bell 206 L4, four Bell 407 and two MI-172.
About its recruitment plans, PHHL last week signed an MoU with the Indian Navy to induct their pilots in order to meet part of the vacanties anticipated due to the fleet expansion plan.
Initially, about 20 pilots, as per the qualifying requirements, would be inducted and thereafter about 10 pilots in the subsequent year, PHHL officials said, adding it would benefit the navy as young pilots would be able to get career progression faster and the age profile of their combat force would come down.
The emergence of several new private operators on the Indian skyline has led to an acute scarcity of trained pilots, with pilot training being prohibitively expensive and time consuming.