New Delhi: In one of the largest-ever pilot recruitment drives, state-run Air India will hire over 500 type-rated pilots on contract basis for the carrier's narrow-body fleet, which is expected to grow to about 80 aircraft by March 2018.
The present strength of the narrow-body fleet is 66.
The fresh hiring of 534 Airbus A320 pilots is in line with Air India's aircraft induction plans and aimed at overcoming the shortage which has many times led to cancellation of its flights at the last minute, according to a source.
At present Air India has 1,441 pilots, with 670 of them flying 66 A320 family aircraft. Besides, another 70 pilots are under training.
Air India's pilots strength will cross 2,000 by May this year when the recruitment exercise gets completed, the source said.
"We will be inducting 29 more A320s including 14 A320 neos between April this year and March 2018. In line with this induction programme, we are recruiting 534 type-rated pilots as well on a contract basis," an Air India source said.
Type rating is a regulating agencies certification given to a pilot to fly a certain aircraft type that requires additional training, which involves huge cost, beyond the scope of the initial licence and aircraft class training.
The national carrier has added 66 A320 family aircraft in its fleet besides Boeing planes.
It has already tied up with a Kuwaiti aircraft lessor to lease 14 A320neos, which are to be delivered by March 2017.
In addition to this, Air India would soon float tenders for leasing of 15 A320s to augment capacity.
"At the same time, we will also be phasing out some old classic A320s from the fleet. We expect our overall narrow body (A320 family) fleet to stand at around 75-80 aircraft by the end of March 2018," the source said.
Air India has tweaked hiring norms after a number of pilots quit the carrier and moved to private airlines after acquiring high high-cost type-rated training at its expenses, the source said.
"The new pilots joining Air India will have to sign a bond and submit bank guarantee totalling Rs10 million, which will be encashed if a pilot decides to quit the airline before the expiry of his contract," the source said.
As many as 173 Air India pilots have resigned from the national carrier since 2012, with the maximum being those operating the narrow body Airbus A320 family aircraft, government had said in Parliament recently.
Of these, 72 pilots operating the narrow-body Airbus A320 family fleet have resigned, while 38 pilots each of Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Boeing 777, eight of Boeing 747 and 17 of Boeing 737 fleet have quit between 2012 and October this year, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju had said during the Winter session of Parliament.
At present, the cost of training a pilot for an Airbus family of planes stands at Rs410,000 per pilot while the type rating cost per pilot comes to nearly Rs2.3 million.