So you want to be a Pilot??. Well, I am a firm believer that if you put in enough efforts, you can achieve anything. But in todays competitive world is just effort enough?. What is actually needed, is to focus your efforts in the right direction. I hope my posts give your efforts a direction.
Medical fitness has always been the most important aspect of a pilots life. If your not medically fit as per governing authorities in your country, you cannot fly. Its been one of the frequent questions I have been getting from budding pilots.
First of all, lets get into the history of pilot uniform. The modern uniforms you see pilots wearing today, was really started and inspired by the airlines Pan American world airways in the 1930’s. Continue reading Why do pilots wear uniforms?
My name is Capt Sanjith Christopher, and I’m a helicopter pilot. I have been flying since the last 4 years. I have accumulated around 2000 hours of helicopter flight time as of now. Though its not much, but its pretty good for a guy who is 26 years old. The machines I have flown are Schweizer 300, Robinson 22, Robinson 44 and Dauphin AS365N. Presently, I am flying for the Indian Govt and my base of flying changes every month.
First lets cover what are the basic prerequisites to be a Commercial pilot in India. So I’m not going to waste your or my time introducing myself, you can find that in the about section. As most of you are going to be school and college students who are going to read this. I will break it down in points, like school days!!
When you think of flying, you often imagine a pilot sitting in a cockpit transfixed onto multiple instruments. In most cases this is true, but it’s not always the case. When it comes to flying there are two major rules. Your whole career as a pilot will revolve around these rules.
Let me take you through a normal sortie in case of a helicopter pilot flying in India. I’m talking about the flight I did this morning. The route is between Cochin International Airport(VOCI) to Kavaratti via Androth . Let me tell you, Kavaratti and Androth are two islands of Lakshwadweep which is off the south western coast of India. To be more precise,Kavaratti is on a radial of 278 degrees and distance of 225 nm from VOCI and Androth is on a radial of 286 degrees and distance of 165 nm from VOCI. So now you know the route and where we are going. Departure time this morning was 1100. So hop on and enjoy the flight.
When we talk about performance, in simple terms it is how efficiently you can carry out an activity. But when it comes to the performance of an aircraft, it is related to its engines. Now I’ll not go into the depth of functioning of engines, but lets understand in brief. The engines suck in air, which is mixed with fuel. The fuel air mixture is compressed and combusted. Basically a mini explosion of this mixture takes place inside the engine, and the exhaust that comes out acts as the thrust, because of which the aircraft moves forward.
So what do we understand from this, air and fuel are two necessary elements that are necessary for performance. Fuel is in the control of the pilot, but air is in the control of nature. Now lets revise the concept of density. Density is mass per unit volume. It is essentially how tightly matter is packed together. But with respect to the engine, what are we really interested in, it’s the density of air. Let’s look at the factors affecting density of air and in turn the performance of the aircraft.
If you have started your flying training, you might have already heard this acronym. But for those of you who are about to start or planning to start, this acronym is something that you should religiously follow before any flight. The acronym is none other than IMSAFE. As clear as it sounds, it basically means if you are safe to fly for that day or even that flight. Let’s now understand this acronym.
“Helicopter pilots, Daredevils of the skies”,“Real pilots don’t need runways”. These are a few quotes that you normally hear when it comes to a helicopter pilot. When you look at the profession from outside, its a very tempting and adventurous job. After flying helicopters since the last few years I wouldn’t deny it either. But i would like to point out a few negatives because of which people do not want to be helicopter pilots.
The training cost to become a helicopter pilot or to get your commercial helicopter license is almost the same or even more than becoming an airplane pilot. Though it takes only 150 hours to get a commercial helicopter pilot license compared to 200 hours in case of fixed wing. The per hour operational cost of a helicopter is way more than an airplane. For example the per hour cost to fly a Cessna 172 is close to 290 USD but the per hour cost to fly a Robinson 44 helicopter is close to 500 USD. So thats the biggest deterrent towards training to become a helicopter pilot as compared to fixed wing pilots.
My instructor used to say, “Helicopters are not machines that are meant to fly”. I never used to understand what he used to say. But as i flew more and more, i understood. Compared to aeroplanes, its much more difficult to fly and control a helicopter. A helicopter is thousands of moving parts in sync with the pilot as its soul. If you compare the rate of accidents in case of helicopters is also higher as compared to aeroplanes. Becoming a helicopter pilot needs a good level of skill and coordination, but with the profession comes a lot of risk.
The life of a helicopter pilot is adventurous but not glamorous. Of course I’m saying this in comparison with the life of a fixed wing pilot. When you picture a pilot, you imagine the uniform. In case of helicopters, 70 percent do not wear uniforms. It varies with companies, but you can see some in uniforms, some in overalls, some in civil clothing. Secondly operations are not necessarily from airports, it can be from absolutely anywhere, starting from the city side to a remote island. Also when it comes to accommodation, sometimes a helicopter pilot finds himself in a luxurious 5 star hotel and sometimes in a makeshift accommodation or even in tents when it comes to remote areas.
Helicopter pilots initially make around 50- 100K USD a year. There are experienced helicopter pilots who even make close to 200- 300K USD a year. But in comparison to the risk a helicopter pilot takes the pay, in most cases is less. If you compare the pay standards to fixed wing, we can say that the pay in case of experienced pilots is slightly less.
when it comes to Indians there is another disadvantage. There are no helicopter pilot training schools in India. For a student to become a helicopter pilot he or she will have to go abroad to countries like US, Canada, South Africa etc. So when a student in India looks at being a pilot, he or she sees that there are no training schools in India and at the same cost they can do their fixed wing training(CPL) and there are multiple schools in India to do CPL training. So why would anyone choose being a helicopter pilot.
Though I have listed out multitude of negatives, there are also positives. There is no other job that is more adventurous than that of a helicopter pilot. The landscapes and the remote cultures that a helicopter pilot gets to experience will never be experienced by an airplane pilot. Also, the work life balance in case of a helicopter pilot is much better than airplane pilots. And in most of the cases helicopters do not have to fly at night and the holiday options given to the pilots are much better. In all, in any profession, there are positives and negatives, it’s upto you to choose. Leave it to your heart, enjoy life, happy landings.
Indian aviation has shown tremendous resilience and potential by withstanding last 2 years of covid. 2022 was a revival year for the Indian aviation industry and now its time to make some money, it time to execute all the developmental plan and policies that was on hold for the last 2 years.
The first step to becoming a pilot, not only in India but anywhere in the world is medical. In India, the most important part is your class 1 DGCA medical. So, to complete your medicals, first comes a class 2 medical and then comes the DGCA class 1 medical. The class 2 medical is valid for 2 years and class 1 is valid for 1 year if your age is less than 60 years.
DGCA class 2 medical
Class 2 medical is quite simple. Just click on this link:
Blood and urine tests, ECG, EEG, chest x-ray, and audiometry are a few regular tests the doctor might ask you to carry from outside or do it in his own lab. The doctor will carry out BMI, blood pressure, physical examination and ENT tests.
The doctor will approve all your reports will send them to DGCA, Delhi for approval. If everything is in order, DGCA will approve it and grant you a PMR. A PMR is a file in your name which has your PREVIOUS MEDICAL RECORDS.
Finally, you can login into egca and get your class 2 medical assessment.
DGCA Class 1 medical
Now that your class 2 medical is over, time for your initial class 1 medical!!.
So there are 6 airforce centres and one civil centre in Mumbai which is the Nanavati hospital. The list also mentions Apollo hospital, Chennai, but on enquiring with them they said they have discontinued. Incase of Civil centres you can directly call them and request for an appointment. But for Airforce centres you need to go via DGCA. The DGCA has set up a centralised appointment system. All you need to do is fill up a form and send it on firstname.lastname@example.org . Heres the form for your reference.
A few things to keep in mind while you apply
When you apply for your class 1 medical, keep in mind that you choose a date that is a month ahead. The request can be made as early as 90 days before the ‘intended date of medical examination’ and upto 15 days before the ‘intended date of medical examination’. Requests received earlier than 90 days will be kept pending. Requests received late shall not be acted upon. Give minimum two and max five choices of centres from among the list of centres.
You are required to give minimum two and max five choices of centres from among the list of centres. The appointment is granted as per availability of a slot at the centre on the date requested for. If a slot is not available in the first choice then the other choices would be considered serially.
In a few days you will receive a mail from DGCA with your appointment details. DGCA will forward your PMR to the medical examination centre. And you are all set to go.
FEE for medicals
You will have to pay a fee at https://bharatkosh.gov.in. Rs 3000 is the service for the medical. You will have to pay for the tests conducted separately. Overall for class 2 and 1 medicals you can keep a budget of Rs 30000. But this is subjective to the tests that the doctor prescribes.
Remember one thing, be well dressed and well groomed when you go for your medicals. Be polite and avoid getting into arguments for a smooth ride. Do not forget to carry all the documents, test reports, photographs and the fee receipt as mentioned in the appointment mail. If you drink or smoke, avoid it a few weeks prior to your medical. Do well!!.
In case of any doubts feel free to contact me on email@example.com Or https://www.instagram.com/pilotsierra/
EGCA or e-governance of civil aviation marked the digitalisation in the processes of DGCA. DGCA launched this e-services platform to facilitate online processing of various services related to Civil Aviation on www.dgca.gov.in. The first step towards being a pilot is to create an EGCA login. All your details as a pilot will be stored on this platform and can be accessed by DGCA. So though its very easy, let me take you through the steps to create an EGCA account
Have you felt stagnant and that you are not growing when people around you is making progress and moving ahead?. Do you feel lost and stuck while everyone around you seems to be moving forward in their personal and professional lives? Have you felt unhappy waking up in the morning unsure of where your life is heading? We have all been there at some point in our lives. Sharing with you some of the lessons I have learnt in my journey.
To start off, we all know, to be a pilot is expensive. And good scholarships is the need of the hour. It’s very difficult for a middle class individual to afford such an expensive education. Even if he/she is able to arrange that money, a lifetime is spent in repaying the debts. The aviation field is only being ruled by the elite and rich. I strongly believe it’s time this changes.
These are strong words, but flying being such an expensive field, is creating rich pilots but maybe not talented ones. So the need for the hour is scholarships in the field of Aviation. An aviation scholarship will create a pathway to flying for even the middle and lower classes of our society and bring fresh talent in. The unaffordable nature of flying training is slowly leading to a drain of talent in the field of aviation.
I have mentioned this previously as well, To fly, is a privilege. I keep saying this because its a difficult field to enter into. You not only need strong finances but also the brains to step into this glorious field. Those who are talented, do not have the money and those who have money, aren’t talented enough.
Scholarships by the government
When it comes to scholarships, I’m sorry to say that Government of India has not many programs that support flying. But let me still list out a few. You can check out a few like-
Scholarship by Ministry of Tribal Affairs
Scholarships by Rajiv Gandhi foundation
The DGCA scholarship
I tried to research into these scholarship programs. On calling up these organisations, they said that the scholarship program is still there, but they will announce when and how the grants will be available. Especially with covid coming into the picture, companies have also stopped giving scholarships. But you can surely enquire into scholarships listed above.
Scholarships by private entities
1. Hercules training academy scholarships
An academy run by Indian armed forces veterans has listed out a scholarship on their website. Eligible candidates will be able to apply for FLYING TRAINING and GROUND TRAINING scholarships of up-to Rupees three lakh fifty thousand (INR 3,50,000/-) and Rupees one lakh fifty thousand (INR 1,50,000/-) respectively. Heres the link- https://herculesaviationtraining.com/scholarship/
2. SBM scholarship for flying training
Santosh Babu Memorial Scholarship for Flying Training is in fond and proud remembrance of the brave officer. He will continue to inspire generations to come. The total amount available towards the scholarship is Rupees Thirty-Five lakhs (INR 35,00,000/-) to be distributed equally among ten students.
3. SAM SCHOLARSHIP FOR GROUND TRAINING
Sunil Agnihotri Memorial Scholarship for Ground Training is dedicated to providing a merit-based platform to students to kick-start their aviation careers. The total amount available towards the scholarship is Rupees Thirty lakhs (INR 30,00,000/-) to be distributed equally among twenty students.
4. Sapno Ki Udaan Scholarship
SAPNO KI UDAAN, the initiative will help those bright young women who are unable to pursue their dreams due to lack of financial support. Honda will provide 100% scholarship to 20 deserving young females from Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan & Karnataka in becoming commercial pilots. It will bear the entire cost of training right from their selection to a training period of 18 months in one of India’s leading flying schools and later will assist them in getting jobs as commercial pilots. Heres the link- https://www.honda2wheelersindia.com/CSR/Home/ProjectSpecific/46
5. JRD TATA Scholarship
This is a grant for candidates who are keen on pursuing the Commercial Pilots License course or for those who would like to pursue type rating after obtaining their license to fly a certain type of aircraft. This grant is offered to students pursuing the course in India or overseas, and subject to their performance during the interview. Heres the link: https://www.tatatrusts.org/our-work/individual-grants-programme/education-grants
I am also striving to create a scholarship program since years now with initiatives like #Aviationforall where I aim at launching scholarship programs for Individuals who cannot afford flying training. I have been collecting money by teaching aviation subjects on various platforms and all the money goes into the scholarship program. Hopefully such programs come ahead soon.
Maybe this write up might have just made you upset. I would still say that, if you have a dream and the passion to achieve something, no matter how hard it is, you will find a way. There is always a way, you just need to find it. Dream, believe, work, achieve, that’s been my motto all my life.