SIA and Scoot to start using pilots from India

It was reported in the media yesterday (9 Feb) that Indian pilots from Vistara would be flying for SIA and Scoot. The report said that Vistara is working with SIA and Scoot to provide around 20 of its pilots to help fly SIA and Scoot’s planes.

Up to 12 qualified Vistara pilots have been training with SIA since last month, SIA revealed.

“These pilots, who have already been flying with Vistara for a number of years, had to undergo our vigorous selection process and meet all Singapore regulatory licensing requirements,” said the SIA spokesperson. “They will be with SIA for about 12 months before returning to Vistara to pioneer the 787 operations.”

Scoot also said that it was working with the Indian airline to “provide opportunities for up to 12 of Vistara’s flight crew to gain operational experience on Scoot’s Boeing 787 fleet”.

Vistara’s pilots are expected to start flying with Scoot progressively in 2019, supplementing Scoot’s needs as its fleet expands and “reduce numbers needed from external recruitment in the near term”.

“They are expected to be with Scoot for a period of not more than 12 months before returning to Vistara,” Scoot said.

Vistara is a joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines which started in 2015, while Scoot is the low-cost air carrier under SIA.

Heavy investment to become a pilot in Singapore

According to Captain Ong, a former RSAF fighter pilot and commercial flight pilot who wrote in his blog, a person who have to spend more than S$150,000 to get his or her Commercial Pilot Licence with training ranging from one to one and a half year long.

Ong writes,

For every Pilot you see strolling their way through immigration and into your aircraft, many others are still jobless. Spending SGD $150,000 for your licence doesn’t buy you a job, the same way that your engineering degree doesn’t come with a job. As a new licence holder, the young pilot has zero experience in operating a large commercial aircraft. Almost 99% of all looking for pilot job listings are airlines who are only looking for experienced pilots. Nobody wants to take in a 200 hour fresh CPL graduate.

There are only 4 airlines in Singapore, and the only airline that is taking in new commercial pilots aggressively is Scoot. So that leaves all new pilots with just one realistic and potential employer. To make matters worse, getting a job in Scoot is not guaranteed. It is competitive as hell. Many other similar licence holders are fighting for limited slots. Be ready for the fight of your life.

We can only imagine the amount of stress the young pilots are going through in the interview. With just one shot for a job after the SGD $150,000 investment, it would not fun to drop out from the selection process.

He also notes that even after one is being successful in one’s applicant, one would also have to pay another $48,000 for his or her Aircraft Training and lists out many other issues that pilots face in their employment.

Indian pilots with fake licence exposed in 2011

While over in India, some pilots went in the easy way. In 2011, a major scandal erupted in the Indian airline industry with multiple pilots caught using fake pilot licence. The scandal began unraveling when a female captain landed her packed airliner on the nose instead of the rear wheels as she touched down in Goa. The pilot was later found to have possessed falsified qualifications.

Further investigations led to more arrests of a number of pilots flying with fake licence. It cast a spotlight on a familiar problem in India, where corruption is widely seen as on the rise. An Indian politician, Baijayant Panda, agreed, “It’s not limited to aviation in India. In many fields, you have a lot of fakery going on.”

To get a pilot licence in India, a trainee needs to complete a minimum 200 hours of flying. Some of the trainees would go on to bribe the instructors so as to get by with just 50 to 60 hours of flying time. And some of these schools even openly “sell” flying hours for a fee.

An investigator said, “A majority of flying schools in India are backed by big politicians.”

The airlines, in turn, blamed India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), which regulates the flight schools and issues pilot licence in India. During the 2011 investigations, several DGCA officials as well as representatives from the flying schools were put behind bars. The DGCA officials were found to be part of a racket to clear unqualified pilots.

Mr Panda blamed India’s huge bureaucracy for incentivizing people to bribe as well as civil servants to collect bribes. “The DGCA has become a humongous bureaucracy and the red tape involved is phenomenal,” he said. “Even genuine pilots, it takes them months and sometimes years to clear the process. This incentives people to go to touts who say ‘why go through the genuine process? I’ll fix it for you’.”

It is a pattern repeated across India, where bribes are frequently paid for driving licences, passports, ration cards for subsidised food, university degrees or even doctor’s certificates.

It’s not known if pilots in India would still fly with fake license these days but SIA would be wise to take heed of the major fake pilot licence scandal erupting in India in 2011 as well as Mr Panda’s words, or re-consider looking for those who got their license here in Singapore for pilots in its companies and joint company.