The Indian government is likely to extend the 31st July 2011 deadline for phasing out expatriate pilots. If that happens, then it will be a great relief for the Indian carriers, who have been very vocal about their dependence on pilots from foreign countries.
The Indian carriers and cargo airlines have said that they will collectively require 2,665 expat pilots till 2015. And they have also made it very clear that in case their demand is not met, then they will be forced to ground a huge number of their collective aircrafts. Needless to say that if that happens, then it will have a very adverse impact on the Indian aviation scenario.
However, while the Indian carriers have lobbied for a 5 years extension for the deadline, the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) has made a recommendation to the Indian government for an extension of 2 years. And it is a 2 years extension that the government is currently considering, though a final decision in this regard is still pending.
Presence of a huge number of expat pilots is certainly not a comfortable scenario for wannabe Indian pilots with licenses from Indian training institutes, as it severely shrinks their employment opportunities. Under that circumstance, they will certainly not be able to welcome a decision to extend the deadline for phasing out expat pilots.
However, the Indian government certainly cannot afford to have a situation where all the Indian carriers will be forced to ground a huge number of their total aircrafts overnight, eventually resulting in a temporary but serious disorder for the Indian civil aviation market.
Then there is also the question of security. Many Indian airlines fly such aircrafts that can be flown only by expat pilots. And the Indian pilots cannot overnight be given the responsibility of flying those aircrafts until and unless they have picked up the necessary expertise. It is a question of passenger security.
So now the Indian Civil Aviation Ministry has to espouse a balanced approach. On one hand it has to offer the necessary extension as sought by the Indian carriers. But at the same time the government must ensure that the Indian carriers start taking steps so that soon they are able to employ Indian pilots. For example, the carriers may start training Indian pilots on how to fly those aircrafts that reportedly can be flown only by expat pilots.