Get your wings and Fly: Career as a Commercial Pilot

Dec 2015

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A globe-trotting career, office at 30,000 feet above ground and an adventurous life are a few perks of being a commercial pilot. Not to mention the awesome feeling of visiting numerous countries and becoming a role-model to many around.

Commercial_PilotHave you ever dreamt of flying to far-away lands, been drawn to a uniform and waking up to adventures?  Being a commercial pilot can fulfill all your dreams and also earn you a good salary while you’re at it. According to the IBEF (India Brand Equity Foundation), India’s civil aviation industry is on a high-growth trajectory. India aspires to be the third-largest in the world aviation market by 2020 and the largest by 2030. These predictions, increased low-cost airlines and international aviation industry have opened doors for extremely lucrative salaries in Indian as well asinternational airlines.

A commercial pilot requires much more than passion though. This is a highly specialized profession which requires extensive knowledge of air navigation, meteorological report and operating highly sophisticated technology. All this while being the protector and leader to the flight crew and passengers under all kinds of conditions while flying in a metal box, thousands of feet above the ground! Not for the faint-hearted for sure.


Licenses to become a commercial pilot: 


Student Pilot License (SPL)

The first step towards many more to become a Commercial Pilot is getting an SPL, a license required to enroll in a flying club recognized by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Government of India or abroad. To be eligible to apply, one needs to be at least 16 years old and a 10+2 pass-out with minimum result of 50%; and a science background with Chemistry, Maths and Physics.

The application process starts with theory and oral tests on navigation, meteorology, air regulations, etc. Post that you’ll require to submit certificates of DGCA approved medical fitness, security clearance and a bank guarantee of Rs 10,000. When you successfully complete this exam you climb your first step towards becoming a commercial pilot, armed with an SPL certificate. The DGCA website regularly updates new regulations, requirements and approved centres.

Private Pilot License (PPL)

This is when you start your air-borne training, a total of 60 hours of various flying exercises after rigorous training. A suitable flying school in India or abroad should be chosen after good research and considering factors like place, cost, reputation of the club, etc. To be eligible for PPL, the pilot needs to appear for centre as well as DGCA theory tests about aviation and submit a medical fitness certificate from the AFCME (Air Force Central Medical Establishment) or IAM (Institute of Aviation Medicine).

Commercial Pilot License (CPL)

The final step to becoming a commercial pilot, CPL is obtained after you have finished at least 250 hours of extensive flying. CPL is granted to pilots after an intensive theory exam at their centre and DGCA exams on aviation and submitting medical fitness testscertificate from the AFCME or IAM. Post the CPL, certifications of instrument rating and type rating are also necessary.


Top Indian Institutes for Aviation

While choosing an institute, factors like cost of flying and staying (a significant investment), reputation of the school and its review from its past students provide valuable insights. On an average the investment for the two years of pilot training and exercises are high, especially the flight costs but the returns justify the investment. Many education loans and scholarships are available.

The top flying clubs/ institutes in India:

Government Aviation Training Institute, Bhubaneswar

Coimbatore Flying Club, Coimbatore

Indian Aviation Academy, Mumbai

Jamshedpur Co-Operative Flying Club Ltd, Jamshedpur

Indira Gandhi RashtriyaUranAkademi, Uttar Pradesh

Rajiv Gandhi Aviation, Secundrabad


The fees in these institutes vary from Rs. 19 lakhs to Rs. 40 lakhs for the PPL and CPL.


Studying Abroad

Contrary to two years in India, doing an aviation course abroad takes 6 to 8 months.

The top flying clubs/ institutes abroad:

CAE Oxford Aviation Academy (Has centres in India and abroad)

CTC Wings (Asia, UK and Australia)

Flight Safety Academy, USA

Pan AM International Flying Academy, USA

Singapore Flying College, Singapore      


Each flying club has different fee structure for licenses. Candidates can submit necessary details on their official websitesand receive a reply with comprehensive fee structure, batch dates and further procedures. The investment in these institutes will be significantly higher than in India and could cost between Rs. 50 lakh to 70 lakh on an average.  You may also search for alternative options of aviation courses from Malaysian and Singaporean clubs/institutes which are also popular among Indian and other Asian airlines.


Job Opportunities



Recruitment in the aviation sector is anticipated to be on the rise with the boom in tourism and flight travel. Introduction of new carriers like Air Asia, Vistara; addition of more routes by global carriers, development of new airports and modernization of existing ones have increased employment opportunities in the industry. The starting salaries of a trainee pilot can be around Rs. 1.5 lakh for flying 50 hours a month, with a significant raise within the next six months. Top local recruiters in the industry are carriers like Indigo, Air Asia &SpiceJet. International players like Etihad, Emirates, Qatar Airlines usually swoop on senior officers with attractive salaries. Apart from the salary, international airlines offer benefits like tax-free income,free housing, schooling and medical expenses and a chance to fly to international destinations solo or with family for free. 

A word of caution however – Even as the Indian aviation industry grows by leaps and bounds, the airline companies are struggling financially – laying down many pilots, recruiting only experienced pilots or recruiting at very low salaries. The fuel prices, extremely competitive fares and the need to revamp Indian aviation policies and taxes are costing dearly to the airline companies.


Many Indian flying clubs/ institutes offer scholarships in various categories.

 Indira Gandhi RashtriyaUranAkademi, Uttar Pradesh

Two scholarships of Rs 4 lakh each given on merit-cum-means basis per batch.

Rajiv Gandhi Aviation, Secunderabad

Two scholarships for female pilots on merit-cum-means up toRs 3 lakh each per batch. 

JRD Tata Memorial Scholarships

JRD Tata Trust offers up to Rs 10 lakh per year to trainees as decided by its Board of Directors. 

Scholarships of SC/ST Candidates

 Government scholarships areavailable for eligible SC/ST candidates.



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