India has raised the retirement age of commercial pilots due to a severe shortage of aircrew brought on by massive growth in the domestic airline sector.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) says the retirement age for professional pilots is now 61, up from 60.

"With sudden growth in the aviation sector, the country is facing an acute shortage of experienced commercial pilots," the DGCA said when announcing the change.

The pilot shortage is largely the result of phenomenal growth in the low-cost airline sector in India, following the rapid expansion of Air Deccan since its launch of scheduled services in 2003. Several new aggressive low-cost airlines have plans to start operating soon, such as Kingfisher and SpiceJet. The former will launch services in May with the first of four A320s leased from Debis AirFinance, and has 13 additional aircraft on order in its own right.

Established airlines that also need to grow their operations to remain competitive, namely government-owned Air India and Indian Airlines, and privately-owned Air Sahara and Jet Airways, have also been facing pilot shortages as some of their employees quit to join the start-up carriers.

Other Asian countries where new airlines are being established face acute pilot shortages, such as China, and some are turning to foreign flightcrew to cope.


Source: Flight International