Monday, August 13, 2007

REGIONAL AIRLINES UPDATE FROM INDIA

One and a half years ago, January 13th 2006 precisely, I wrote a piece on my blog (http://mymysore72.blogspot.com/2006_01_01_archive.html) titled "wake up airline investors..." and that was about how the hinterland in India was largely unserviced by any Airline or operator in India. I had predicted that new investments were required from private players to tap this market. I had also predicted that the boom in aviation in future woukd come from the hinterlands.

Why am I rehashing old stuff? Well, news from India that I am following on the net these days suggests that the Ministry of Civil Aviation is paving the way for new "regional airline" operators to connect hitherto unconnected airports, using "regional" aircraft. There are some riders attached to the policy to ensure that regional routes are the primary business of the operators and to ensure that new licenses given for an airline does not violate the reduced norms of the Government.

The policy of encouraging new entrants to service the regional sectors is a good one. I am sure that feasibility of operating to smaller towns is not going to be a factor and I predict that the revenue yield per seat is going to be much above what "national" airlines are getting for their trunk routes. The new policy also allows existing operators to have regional subsidiaries but the license given will be in a different category. The Government has also offered lots of sops for companies willing to operate on these sectors, just to give them a jumpstart. I hope that new operators take this gauntlet tossed to them by the Ministry and turn this into profitable ventures. I say again, in my opinion, the hinterland in India is where the next boom is, for sure.

I guess this comes a little late, but better late than never, says an old cliche'. I have been shouting hoarse for a while on this subject. I don't believe for a second that the Aviation Minister read my blog of a year and half back although that would be flattering if he did! Only my fanciful thinking! I had to do this piece, felt good to be writing about aviation again.

7 comments:

Abraham Tharakan said...

Captain, what you have said is right. Perhaps you would like to consider enlightening your readers about a connected aspect.

The expansion of air services, it would appear, dependent on the availability of pilots. Does India have facilities to train enough pilots to cope with the expansion of air transport system?

One reads about people going to Philippines and other countries to get flying license. Are such qualifications internationally accepted?

Sometimes on flights one gets rather uncomfortable on hearing the heavily accented English of some foreign pilot.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Pilot shortage in India has been caused by the frenetic development in this sector. This is also true in the rest of Asia and elsewhere. The United States is already seeing a shortage that is likely to get acute once the "air taxis" using VLJ's get off the ground and some of them already have. VLJ=Very Light Jets such as the Eclipse 500, Cessna Mustang, Embraer Phenom and so on.

In India, the only solution is to acquire foreign pilots and plenty of them from Africa, South America, eastern europe are flying. Hence the funny thick accents that cannot be understood by the Indian flying public. Airlines in India are paying top dollar, while at the same time trying to be a Low Cost Airlines, its like an oxymoron.

Lots of Indians are taking to the skies as new pilots, flight schools in India are full and now flight schools everywhere seem full of Indians. Australia and the US are the prefered training locations. I have heard some of them going to the Philippines like you have mentioned and sadly some of the young trainees lost their lives as you may have read in the news. Any flight school recognized by the Indian DGCA is eligible for conversion to an Indian license.

The problem of pilot shortage is not going to get solved by all these youngsters completing their commercial pilot license and going home. They will need 1500 hours more to just get an Airline Transport Pilot Licence and then lots of experience on type before they get command.

I have to mention something clearly here. The pilot shortage is a shortage of experienced commanders, there is no shortage with respect to co-pilots and these youngsters will all be fighting to be co-pilots for many years before they get command.

Therefore, Airlines in India are stuck with the inevitable task of hiring foreign commanders.

SKY said...

Capt. Murthy,

I am a pilot here in the US - a private pilot though. I frequent many pilot discussion boards and all the indications here are that there are more qualified pilots than there are jobs. Regional carriers apparently are have so many applicants that starting salaries are going through the floor. So I am not really sure if there is a pilot shortage here, especially with so many pilots of the majors still furloughed.

On another note, I was curious as to how visual navigation is done in India. Here in the US we use VFR sectional charts. I know India has many VORs and NDBs for navaids. But are there any charts to use for pilotage? If there are, where are they available?

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Hi Sky, thanks for you input. I made the comment based on US statistics of rated and experienced pilots, not those who are just qualified (part 135 or 121). Flight International estimates that the shortage is going to be in the GA area too especially when the VLJ's proliferate in the U.S. Most guys want to get to the commuters, even at very low pay so that they somehow end up in the majors. My friends who own and operate charter jets and one of them who owns and operates a Hawker/Raytehon/Beech International ferry company cannot find suitably rated/experienced pilots in the U.S. and when I was looking for rated Premier 1 jet pilots in the US, I got a listing of those looking for work and there was only four of them in the entire country. I had to look elsewhere (outside the U.S.) and also send pilots for training at our company cost. So, in my own experience, there are pilot shortages even in the U.S.
As a local example, our company presently owns and operates Learjets, I have a shortage of Captains, minimum requirement is over 3,500 hours total time and 1,000 hours on type. The only thing that prevents me from expanding my fleet currently is pilot shortage and we pay top dollar unlike the commuters. Of course, in my company's case, they'd have to relocate to Singapore.

I also know that plenty of American pilots rated on the B737NG and A320's are flying for Airlines in India. I am sure many of the fuloughed pilots have ended up there and in other countries such as the Gulf region. Those who prefer to stay in the U.S. are waiting for jobs and they have limitations of finding a job they are qualified to do. Another example is a guy who is fuloughed from the Airlines with tons of jet time on MD-90's and so on (example only), he'd still need plenty of time on type to fly a Hawker 800XP and that means further training and costs. Most Airline guys don't want to get into GA, lifestyle is completely different and they'd rather wait for a miracle to happen and bring back Airlines to life. I think some of the furloughed U.S.pilots have also found jobs in Allegiant (out of Las Vegas and I have friends flying there), Skybus (the new upstart) and Virgin America.

I have extensive flying experience in the US and know about the charts there and I have not flown in India (as a pilot) for a very long time (last time I flew there was 1997 and very briefly too-less than 6 months). I am not sure whether VFR charts are available as stand alone charts/sectionals like we do in the States, I don't remember frankly. However, the AIP published by the Indian DGCA should have VFR charts. I need to contact my friends in India and get this info. I'll let you know in this column once I get the info.
Thanks again for your comments, I appreciate it.

capt a nazar said...

Hi capt...
the chart issue is of interest to me as well, I'm an airline pilot flying for one of the private airlines in India on the 737NG and I've been on the lookout myself for good VFR charts , I guess because of the lack of GA in India, these charts are not in demand as u have in the US or Europe.For me , it's nice to know the names of the small towns and lakes as we pass them by on the airways .I did find a couple of 1:1000000 charts at the English Book Store in delhi but they were prohibitively expensive....anyway I'd be happy to find out if anyone has an idea...

SKY said...

An update to Capts. Anup and Nazar,

I was in India recently and got to fly in a microlight. The instructor told me that they use Survey of India maps or a suitable scale for VFR navigation. I think they can be ordered from them directly.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Great to hearfrom Capt Nazar and Sky. Since this post is more than a year old, I usually don't go back to archives and see who has left a note and hence I am unable to respond or even read comments on time! Sometimes, it is better to leave a comment on my latest post (November 2008) on a previous subject/previous blog even though that comment may not be relevant to the current topic. At least that way I'll see the comment early and respond as well. Thanks for your comments though and I sincerely appreciate the fact that people are reading my blog! I am going to put up a new article on the recently concluded air show, please look out for that.