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April 01, 2009


The aviation industry includes the manufacturing division (of aircrafts and their ancillaries) and the services division (maintenance, tourism and hospitality, logistics, airport construction). Indian aviation has two main arms: military and civil.

Military aviation is controlled and governed by state bodies whereas civil aviation has increasingly being dominated by the private sector companies.

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is the global regulatory body civil aviation worldwide. This Canada based UN agency regulates the civil aviation industry in 190 countries. The main purpose of this body is to codify the principles and techniques of international air navigation and foster the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth. On the domestic front, The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is responsible for regulation of air transport services to/from/within India and for enforcement of civil air regulations, air safety and airworthiness standards in synch with ICAO.

According to International Air Transport Association (IATA), Indian aviation industry is pegged at $5.6 billion and is expected to grow at the rate of 20 percent till 2012. India currently has 80 operational airports and 16 civil airlines. The number of people opting for air transport in India is close to 75 million. This is growing at a steady rate of 30 percent since last four years and is expected to touch 100 million by 2010.

The basics

The civil aviation industry comprises of aircraft manufacturers and service providers or airlines. Most of the major aircraft manufacturers, such as Boeing, Airbus and Cessna are based out of India. However, there are a few home grown aircraft manufacturers, such as Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd. HAL, mostly manufactures aircrafts for military purposes, whereas Pawan Hans manufactures helicopters for civilian use.

Other major part of the civil aviation industry is the service providers or airlines. The 1953 Air Transport Act defines airlines as a service for the transport by air of persons, mails or any other thing, animate or inanimate, for any kind of remuneration whatsoever, whether such service consists of a single flight or a series of flights. The airlines can be further classified as passenger airlines, cargo airlines and charter planes. Passenger airlines also carry a certain amount of cargo with them (apart from passenger luggage's), which enables them to earn extra revenue. Some of the prominent airlines are Jet Airways, Indian, Kingfisher, IndiGo, Go Air and Spicejet.

With growing affluence and spending power, charter planes and private airlines are playing a greater role in the Indian skies. Companies like Airnetz Aviation render small and medium enterprises with charter planes for business travels. This has bought down the charting charges as low as Rs. 65,000 per hour instead of a lump sum amount of Rs four lakh per hour.

The third category is that of cargo airlines. Logistic companies like DHL, Bluedart, UPS have dedicated fleets of Boeing's and Airbuses which serve as cargo planes. At present there are 16 scheduled airline (passenger) operators and 17 non-scheduled airline (charter and cargo) operators in India. Most of these non-scheduled airlines such as Aerial Services Pvt Ltd and Asian Aviation Limited function as charting services and cargo transportation.


India's first flight took off in 1912 and operated between Karachi and Delhi. It was started by the Indian State Air Services in collaboration with the UK based Imperial Airways. JRD Tata was the first Indian to start an airline service, Tata Airline, in 1932. By 1947, there were nine operators in this sector. Post independence, in 1948, the Government of India incorporated Air India International Ltd. in collaboration with Air India (earlier Tata Airline). After implementing the Air Corporation Act, 1953, all the nine companies were nationalised and Indian Airlines (for domestic travel) was set up. After introducing a slew of economic measure in 1991, the government amended the Air Corporation Act 1953 to Air Corporation Act 1994, thus allowing private and international players to enter the Indian markets. This ended the monopoly of government and ushered in a number of new entrants such as Jet Airways, Air Sahara etc.

Things changed dramatically with the entry of Deccan Aviation. Led by Captain Gopinath, this airline revolutionised the way Indians perceived air travel. It was the first airline in India to introduce the concept of low cost carries, which enabled middle class, train travellers to afford air travel. Following Deccan, several low cost carriers or no frill airlines entered the sector. Since 2005, the industry has undergone a sea of changes. Deccan Aviation was acquired by Kingfisher Airlines, Indian Airlines was merged with Air India, Air Sahara was acquired by Jet Airways. Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines entered into partnership of sorts in October 2008. The result was a combined market share of 60 percent and lower costs of operations.


Careers in military aviation are as diverse as civil aviation; however the entry points are restricted. For officer level positions in aviation arms of army navy or air force, entry can be gained by appearing for UPSC right after HSC or after graduation. You can either opt for flying or take up ground duties in these divisions. In Army, flying is done only on choppers, which are used for war and peaceful purposes. Naval Aviation offers as diverse opportunities as Air Force. These are, pilots (fighter and transport), technical staff, engineering and maintenance and administration. People from military aviation get plenty of offers from civil aviation industry after their retirement from armed forces.

Civil aviation industry fall under two categories, technical and non-technical or service based. As far as technical jobs are concerned, these mostly go to engineers, who work with aircraft manufacturers and airports. At airports, the technical jobs are related to air-traffic control, maintenance of aircrafts. Government agencies as well as private companies employ engineers or science graduates for this purpose. There are a number of government and private institutes which offer specifically designed air-craft maintenance and engineering and air-traffic management courses. Another major and glamorous technical career option is that of a pilot. Again there are umpteen number of government, private national and international flying academies which can train you to become a commercial pilot. Other than airlines and cargo airlines, pilots can also look towards charter services for employment. However barring government run institutes like Indira Gandhi Udan Academy, these courses cost a fortune, which falls anywhere in the range of Rs. 20 to 30 lakh.

The major employment generator in this industry no doubt is service related. Right from front office management to cabin crews, aviation industry has a myriad of choices, such as in-flight staff, front desk management, ticket handling etc. Only a high-school education, pleasing personality and sound communication skills are compulsory. Most of the jobs are similar to those in the hospitality industry, but differ as far as working hours and training is concerned.

For management graduates, employment opportunities are limited to operations management, general management, HR, logistics management, marketing and finance. There are plenty opportunities in the logistics industry. Not only pilots but MBAs with specialisation in logistic management, supply chain management have good career prospects here.

Money honey

An entry level air-hostess can earn anywhere in between Rs. 2.5 to 3.5 lakh per annum excluding the perks. . An entry level pilot can take away a pay package anywhere ranging from Rs 10 to 15 lakh per annum.

With increasing number of airlines, aviation training academies have mushroomed throughout India. Before going through cabin crew and in-flight service courses, make sure that the courses are approved by DGCA, which is a pre-requisite to secure a job with any airline. Although the pay scales for pilots are great, these days this profession too is facing some hurdles. According to a Times of India report, there will be more than 6000 pilots unemployed by 2009 in Indian market due to saturation within the industry. No flying academy gives job assurance, which might put ones entire investment in jeopardy.

Future trends

The aviation industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world. The Indian government on its part has introduced number of policies which has helped facilitate investment from private sector. Boeing, the largest aircraft manufacturer in the world will be setting up their India operations by end of 2008. Tata group is planning to re-enter this industry by starting charter services. Richard Branson led Virgin Atlantic has already applied for commencing India operations. The government has already rolled out plan to increase the number of operational airports to 600. This will attract close to $20 billion in the form of investment from India and abroad.


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