Air India is employing its first batch of foreign pilots as the flag carrier struggles to find enough local pilots to fly the airline's newly acquired Airbus A310s and Boeing 747-400s.

New Zealand's Rishworth Aviation has been hired by Air India to contract 10 Airbus A310 and 10 747-400 captains by May.

Air India says it has sought and secured special government approval to begin the hiring of foreign pilots "so it can grow and pilot shortage doesn't come in our way".

The carrier has leased two additional 747-400s from Boeing Capital for delivery in June and October. The aircraft, which will take Air India's 747-400 fleet to 11, will be used to launch flights to Los Angeles via Frankfurt and add flights to London from Mumbai. Some of the pilots the carrier is recruiting will be based in Europe and the USA to support these extra services.

By the end of the year, Air India also plans to lease two additional A310s, probably ex-Singapore Airlines aircraft that Boeing is remarketing. The carrier already operates 19 A310s.

Air India has 440 pilots and, since October, has recruited 70 cadets for ab initio training. The airline claims it also needs to hire pilots from overseas because there are not enough local pilot candidates who are ready to move straight into 747-400 and A310 captain positions.

Source: Flight International