CAREER OPTIONS | Dream of becoming a Pilot? Here’s how


By Sampurnaa Dutta

Globetrotting across the world while safely flying hundreds to their preferred destinations. If this excites you, then read on! Working as a pilot is one of the most challenging, lucrative and fast-paced jobs in aviation. A career that is both thrilling and involves tremendous responsibility, the job of a pilot prepares you for a lifetime of adventure while being a master at your craft.

Pilots are highly trained professionals who fly airplanes and helicopters carrying passengers or cargo. This is a highly specialised job which requires knowledge of air navigation, interpretation of meteorological reports, operations of sophisticated electronic and mechanical controls, leading the aircraft under adverse circumstances, and being a leader to the flight crew and passengers under climatic and other emergency situations.

Being a pilot is a high risk job as it involves the life and safety of hundreds of passengers, crew and cargo. An aspiring pilot should have extraordinary grit, presence of mind, courage and determination. S/he should possess a reliable, calm and level headed personality. Exceptional communication skills are a prerequisite as it is necessary to keep clear communication with both the team on board and air traffic control.  Good health and physical fitness is vital. A pilot should have sound technical knowledge and the ability to take charge in case of emergency.

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The first step towards becoming a commercial pilot is obtaining a Student Pilot License (SPL). To get the SPL, those students who have qualified 10+2 with 50% marks in Physics and Mathematics and aged at least 16 years should register at a flying club which is recognized by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Government of India. Registration requires a medical certificate, security clearance and a bank guarantee. An oral examination in subjects such as Air Regulations, Aviation Meteorology, Air Navigation, Engine (technical and specific) follows the registration. Successful completion of the examination entitles one for an SPL certificate.

A Commercial Pilot License may be obtained only after a PPL has been acquired. To obtain a Commercial Pilots License (CPL), 250 hours of flying (including 60 hours for the PPL) is necessary. Besides that one has to undergo a Medical Fitness Test which is held at New Delhi and an examination which consists of Air Regulations, Aviation Meteorology, Air Navigation, Technical, Planning, and communications in the form of Radio & Wireless Transmission. With the CPL, a pilot can take up any professional assignment.The second step is the Private Pilot License (PPL). PPL training includes sixty hours of flying of which about fifteen hours are dual flights, that is accompanied by the flight instructor and at least 30 hours of solo flights apart from five hours of cross-country flying. This makes one eligible for the PPL exam, which consists of Air Regulation, Aviation Meteorology, Air Navigation, Aircraft Engines and Seamanship. The prescribed age for appearing for this exam is 17 years and an educational qualification of 10+2 along with a medical Fitness Certificate issued by the Armed Forces Central Medical Establishment (AFCME).

Some of the most reputed institutions which offer courses in pilot training are:

  • Government Aviation Training Institute, Bhubaneswar
  • Coimbatore Flying Club, Coimbatore
  • Indian Aviation Academy, Mumbai
  • Jamshedpur Co-operative Flying Club Ltd, Jamshedpur
  • All India Institute of Aeronautics, (AIIA), Dehradun
  • Rajiv Gandhi Aviation Academy, Secunderabad
  • Ahmedabad Aviation and Aeronautics, Ahmedabad
  • Government Flying Training School, Bangalore
  • Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi, Rae Bareli
  • West Bengal Flying Training Institute, Kolkata

The cost of pilot training in India comes to around Rs. 15-20 lakh. Job prospects in this field are lucrative as aspiring pilots are hired by top recruiters such as Air India, Jet Airways, Spicejet, IndiGo, Lufthansa, Air Asia among others. A fresher can earn a salary of Rs. 40,000-1,50,000 per month. Experienced pilots flying on international routes are paid up to Rs. 5-6 lakh per month. An exciting perk that draws people to the job is the opportunity to visit various destinations across the globe which one may not be able to otherwise afford. Besides this, pilots are entitled to a range of benefits and allowances in addition to housing, medical and out- station allowances, as well as free/concessional air passages for their immediate family and dependants.

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While one can be blinded by the glamour quotient of this job, it is pertinent to bear in mind that airline pilots have to deal with a lot of stress on a typical day at work since they are responsible for a lot of lives and the slightest mistake could be catastrophic. They are often assigned routes over and over, which means things can get monotonous. Although pilots generally have fixed schedules, flights are often in the middle of the night. It is difficult to spend time with loved ones since a lot of time is spent in the cockpit of a plane or in an unfamiliar place.

If life of an adventure is what you seek, becoming a pilot is your best bet. Being paid to fly to exotic destinations while enjoying layoffs at luxurious hotels are dreams that many people dream. So set your sights on the sky, put your safety belt on and get, set, go!

((The writer is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, University of Science and Technology Meghalaya. She can be reached at