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Air force pilots fly to private airlines

Three months after IAF permitted its aging pilots to switch to civil-aviation stream, 13 have decided to bid adieu to the service, reports Rahul Singh.

india Updated: Jul 24, 2007 01:19 IST
Rahul Singh

Looks like Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots are eager to move on to greener pastures. Three months after the IAF permitted its aging pilots to switch to the civil-aviation stream, 13 have decided to bid adieu to service to join Air India, the entity created by the merger of Air India and Indian.

The pilots represent both the fighter and transport streams. Those about to leave include seven air vice marshal (AVMs), five air commodores and a group captain, all aged over 54. The IAF had signed an agreement with Air India in April to release 15 to 20 pilots at regular intervals.

The two sides are giving final touches to the modalities for the employment of the air-force pilots. An IAF official said, “We are quite sure that our pilots will be given due credit for their experience. But it is not yet clear as to what formalities or tests they will have to go through.”

These pilots will earn significantly more than their peers in the air force. A 54-year-old AVM or air commodore gets a monthly salary between Rs 50,000 and Rs 60,000. A 20-year-old first officer on a Boeing 737 makes Rs 1.2 lakh per month, post-tax.

Sources in the civil-aviation industry say the IAF pilots will have to adapt to change. A Jet Airways captain says, “An AVM may have logged 4,000 hours of flying but he will have to report to the aircraft captain, who may be far younger. It will require a change in temperament.”

The IAF pilots will have to quickly get accustomed to a new environment. “The priorities of military flying are different from commercial operations,” says a commercial pilot. “Apart from safety, we are equally focused on comfort.”