Demand for helicopter pilots set for big surge

Demand for helicopter pilots set for big surge

The demand for trained pilots in the helicopter sector seems to be on a high if one considers how The Helicopter Academy to Train by Simulation of Flying (HATSOFF), a joint venture of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Canadian Aviation Electronics (CAE), has been performing over the last four years. 

Wing Commander N S Krishna, the CEO of HATSOFF told Deccan Herald that the helicopter training centre has been graduating 200 to 250 pilots each year, since 2010 when training operations commenced.

Krishna also estimates that “over the next five years, the country would have 250 to 300 new helicopters in the civil sector and there is a need for around 8,000 pilots.”“The market scene for pilots seems fine over the next five to eight years though we would have liked higher and quicker growth.

“At HATSOFF, we offer training to pilots who have the basic training licence. In Bangalore, you can procure the basic licence from The HAL Rotary Wing Academy after six months of training. The trained pilots then come to us to learn higher level flying or conversion training, in which the pilots will fly specific helicopters that are not the basic ones. (like Schweizer 300C/Schweizer 330SP). Since people are likely to own different helicopters, training on specific models would be useful,” said Krishna. 

The HATSOFF Helicopter Training Centre offers a comprehensive turnkey facility for helicopter flight training on level D Simulator and offers complete training solutions for the Bell 412, Eurocopter Dauphin, and both military and civil variants of the HAL-built Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH). 

The pilots get to train on twin engine copters, while basic training is on a single engine copter. The duration of this advanced flying would be 15 hours over 15 days and would also include a week’s ground training. Training at HATSOFF costs upto Rs one lakh and more. 

The helicopter market, says Wing Commander Krishna, would expand rapidly if infrastructure for helicopters is built. 

“We should build helipads or comfortable landing decks in a variety of regions. Assured of landing facilities, industries, private individuals, companies and the political-government establishments would go in for fairly large number of copters. All of these will need trained pilots. The expansion of helicopter market looks realistic though a lot will depend on how policies come up.” 

There are around 50 helicopter operators country-wide who are constantly in need of pilots given shortage of qualified pilots and flying instructors. India had no civil helicopter pilots training school approved by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation up until 2000. 

Helicopter operators were dependent solely on former defence pilots for operations. Only when HAL decided in the late nineties to develop the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), helicopter training emerged in Bangalore. HAL’s reasoning was if it could establish a helicopter pilots training institute, it would not only help produce civil pilots for civil copters, but promote the ALH civil version in the market. 

Flying instructors, ground instructors and aircraft maintenance engineers are all either ex-HAL or ex-defence persons, with vast flying and technical experience, and are the key people who train a large body of potential pilots. The Academy has trained pilots from the Royal Nepal Army, Indian Army, Coast Guard and BSF, among others.

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