The Indian Air Force (IAF) has worked out an arrangement with Air India to provide a second career to its aging pilots. In a memorandum of understanding (MoU) inked with the state-owned carrier, the air force has agreed to release pilots aged 54 and above to join the civil aviation stream, which is facing a shortage of pilots.
The new IAF chief, Fali Homi Major, said on Monday that the IAF would release 15 to 20 pilots at regular intervals for absorption into the national carrier. However, Major gave no details of the arrangement, saying things were being worked out.
The demand for pilots in the country has skyrocketed with the civil aviation sector witnessing a boom. Projections made by the airlines show that India would require at least 5,000 pilots in the next five years to fly over 500 new aircraft. Currently, the civil aviation sector employs 2,940 pilots — 200 less than the required number. Air India, whose merger with Indian Airlines is on track, will be looking at offsetting some of that shortage by recruiting air force pilots.
In his maiden interaction with reporters after taking charge of the IAF on March 31, Air Chief Marshal Major also made known that the government was in the final stages of negotiations with the US for the purchase of C-130J Hercules transport aircraft for the special forces. Major said the IAF would acquire different kinds of radars and some of these would be fielded to plug gaps in radar coverage in the southern peninsular region.
He disclosed that the IAF had achieved the lowest accident rate since its inception in 1932 — 0.36 per cent for every 10,000 hours of flying. Put simply, the air force records just one air crash in 30,000 hours flown. He said the improvement in flight safety had come about largely due to modifications in flying technique and better analysis of snags.
Major brushed aside concerns that delay in releasing international tenders for 126 fighters would hit the country’s defence preparedness. He said threat perceptions in the present geo-political scenario had been catered to and there was no cause for concern. Major added that the upgrade programme for MiG-29 and Mirage 2000 would ensure that the country’s air power would retain a cutting edge in the region.
He also said the IAF hoped to make it to the record books with an unparalleled feat — the fastest circumnavigation of the globe in a microlight.