Flight of Doom?

How many of us have dreamt of becoming a pilot; of flying high up in the sky; visiting different places; being in command of a huge Boeing 747; and most of all, being responsible for the numerous passengers on board? The high life of the pilots has always been an attraction for the youth, which often makes them consider a career in the aviation industry. However, due to the shortage of proper flight schools in India, many of them head to foreign lands to undergo training and get their license, something which is a must for every pilot.

Although costly, these institutes provide better facilities and also finish the course quickly. However, the recent deaths of numerous Indian students in these flight schools during the course of their training has raised serious doubts about the safety standards and their credibility (some of the schools don’t even exist in reality).

Recently, I met a friend off mine who had come back from the States after the completion of his training. On being asked if he was all set to fly his own plane, he gave me a very unexpected answer which highlighted the plight Indian students faced abroad.. In the course of five months, he had lost four friends and two instructors (the Chief instructor being one of them) in plane crashes across the United States. His flight school had been blacklisted and shut down which meant that even after clearing his exams in India, he was not eligible for a license. To add to his agony, he had a huge loan of around 25 lakh to pay off. With no solution on hand and having seen the callous attitude of the DGCA (Directorate General Civil Aviation) officials, he was seriously contemplating going back and doing his check rides all over again from another flight school. This would mean another loan of approximately 6-7 lakhs.

Thousands of students head to foreign flight schools banking on their supposed safety standards. But are they really safe? With the increasing death toll due to ‘freak incidents’, it has become extremely hard to ascertain. These students not only have a hefty bank loan resting on their shoulders, but some of the parents even mortgage their property and land to give wings to their children’s dreams. Many of the students are also not granted a visa which would allow them to work part-time. Even if that is done on the sly, to pay off the loan, they run a high risk of being deported by the first flight back home, thereby ending their flying career.

Indian students not only face hostile staying conditions (most prefer staying near an Indian community) but rampant racial discrimination as well. Hate crimes against Indian students are also on the rise. They have almost no help from the government and there is no one to listen to their woes..

In the absence of a proper regulatory body in this sector, it is hard to pin point the number of deaths of Indian students in these plane crashes.

The aviation industry is a booming sector and it would be requiring around 15-20000 pilots by 2020 .The government of India should organize a proper international body to keep a check on the flight schools abroad so that the students do not get duped by fictitious schools or get into one which has a history of crashes. In fact, the aviation ministry should found new flight schools in India itself which would provide students with state of the art facilities without burning a hole in their pockets.

If such steps are taken, not only it will reduce the demand for foreign commanders , the option of becoming a pilot will no longer remain a domain only for the rich and the elite.

Abhimanyu Singh

[Image Source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/siggichurchill/479235103/]