Budget airline SpiceJet is planning to train around 35-40 co-pilots and make them full-fledged pilots, a top company official said.
"We are looking at training some 35-40 first officers (co-pilots) to bring them on to the right (pilot) seat," SpiceJet Chief Executive Officer Sanjay Aggarwal told PTI here.
The first officers were being upgraded into pilots as the airline had plans to phase out expat pilots by the year-end, Aggarwal said, adding that, "14 first officers are already being upgraded into pilots."
"We have been mandated by the regulatory body, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), to phase out expat pilots. So we need to upgrade 35-40 pilots into captains," he said.
At present, the pilot strength in SpiceJet stands at 204 RPT 204 of which 106 are co-pilots and 98 captains. Of the 98 captains, 44 are expats.
In addition, 22 first officers are undergoing training and would occupy the left seat shortly, he said.
The Government had recently said that an Indian air-carrier could use a foreign pilot "up to a time limit of four years or July 1, 2010, whichever is earlier."
SpiceJet also plans to hire around 50-60 pilots over the next 12-18 months, Aggarwal said.
"We are also looking at hiring 50-60 pilots over the next 12-18 months and some of them will be taken as captains," he said.
With expat pilots to be phased out, the airline would need pilots to replace them, Aggarwal said.
The DGCA wants the expat pilots to be phased out, keeping in view the interest of Indians holding Commercial Pilot Licences (CPL).
Of the 5,500-odd pilots that are employed with domestic air-carriers, around 1,000 are believed to be expats.