Fast-growing Indian start-up Kingfisher Airlines has revealed plans to set up a major training centre near Mumbai as it seeks to deal with the shortage of pilots in the country.

The Bangalore-based arm of brewing conglomerate UB Group confirmed its $600 million deal for up to 35 ATR 72-500s, as well as orders for 30 more Airbus A320 family aircraft during the show. However, Kingfisher’s managing director Dr Vijay Mallya warns that much needed growth of India’s air transport sector is being hampered by a lack of pilots: “The shortage is the main problem facing the airlines in India at the moment,” he says.

The airline is creating a fully equipped training centre – dubbed “Kingfisher University” – which will be equipped with simulators and cabin trainers to serve Kingfisher’s flight and cabin crew training needs as well as potentially third parties, says Mallya. “The centre will be located at Thane, about 1h from Mumbai, and will be up and running by the end of next year,” he says.

The centre will be equipped with A320 and ATR simulators supplied by Canada’s CAE, as well as cabin evacuation trainers with swimming pools. “We’ll be able to take ab initio recruits with private pilot’s licences and train them for our needs,” says Mallya.

Kingfisher is addressing the pilot shortage in the near term by recruiting retired former Indian Airlines A320 pilots. “Indian Airlines requires its captains to retire at age 58, but the Indian civil aviation authority allows flightcrew to continue flying until 61, so we are able to get three years out of very experienced A320 pilots,” he says.

Meanwhile, Kingfisher has awarded Emirates-CAE Flight Training (ECFT) a five-year contract for A320 pilot training. The deal covers instruction and simulator time for initial and recurrent training at ECFT in Dubai, which is jointly operated by Emirates and CAE.

Kingfisher will receive its first ATR 72 in March. Mallya says the established fleet of ATRs in the country means there are trained pilots and engineers available, which he says made a “huge difference” when evaluating the aircraft against the competing Bombardier Dash 8 Q Series.

Source: Flight International