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How do I train to be a pilot?

By Richa Pant
Last updated on: January 30, 2007 16:38 IST
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Part I: Want to be a pilot? The sky's the limit

Part II: The highs and lows of being a pilot

Part IV: Pilot's training too expensive? Here's help 

Part V: 'Why I like being a pilot'
he job of a pilot is a highly specialised one. It requires knowledge of air navigation, interpretation of meteorological reports, operating sophisticated electronic and mechanical controls, leading the aircraft under adverse circumstances, and being a leader to the flight crew and passengers under climatic and other emergency situations.

You are responsible for the passengers, the crew and the aircraft. Hence you must have discipline, patience, responsibility, punctuality, commitment and self-confidence.

Additionally, a lot of hard work, stamina, alertness of mind, adaptability to follow difficult time schedules, and good team spirit is required. Emotional stability in crisis situations is another characteristic. 

Do you have these attributes? If yes, what sort of training do you require? We list out the various options.

Basic prerequisites

  • You must complete Class XII under the 10+2 system or its equivalent with a minimum of 50 per cent marks in maths and physics.  
  • You must be at least 16 years of age to be eligible for a Student Pilot License, 17 for a Private Pilot License, and 18 for a Commercial Pilot License.
  • Alternatively, you could directly enroll for the Private Pilot License once you have cleared Class XII and are 17 years old. This involves taking an exam conducted by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation* consisting of theory papers on air navigation, aviation meteorology, air regulation and technical aspects.
  • Your vision in one eye must be perfect. In general medical terminology, it is called 6/6 eyesight. In the other eye, you could have an imperfection of 6/9, which must be correctable to 6/6.
  • General physical fitness is mandatory. You must be free of any disease that can hamper normal function.
  • You need to complete the requisite number of hours, clear written papers and the medical examination. You need 70 percent marks to pass in each of these papers. You can keep appearing until you clear them.

Note: The application form is available at all flying clubs. You can also write to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. Send a self-addressed envelope, requesting them to send it back to you.

The DGCA's address

Director of Airworthiness (CEO)
C/O Director General of Civil Aviation
East Block III, RK Puram
New Delhi -- 110 066

About the DGCA*

The DGCA is the regulating authority on all matters dealing with aviation in the country. It is responsible for implementing, controlling, and supervising airworthiness standards, safety operations, and crew training in India. This department holds examinations for pilots, and grants flying licenses. Basically, it controls civil aviation in the country.

Web site

Professional courses

There are various exams, which must be progressively cleared before one can fly various aircrafts or be promoted to senior positions.

~ Student Pilot License (SPL)

This is an examination conducted by most flying clubs. It covers papers in Air Regulations, Aviation Meteorology, Air Navigation Air Technical. It is a theory exam.

Eligibility: You must be at least 16 years of age and have passed Class X. A medical certificate of fitness, security clearance and a bank guarantee of Rs 10,000 is required.

Selection: Candidates taking the SPL test have to appear in an oral examination on a fixed day every month, candidates go through a medical test. Air Force Central Medical Establishment, New Delhi and Institute of Aviation Medicine, Vimanpura, Bangalore, are the final authorities for medical fitness. After medical clearance, the candidate gets the SPL. You must also  pass the Pilot Aptitude Test.

~ Private Pilot License (PPL) 

After getting the SPL, you proceed, accompanied by the flying instructor, for initial flying training. This is a dual flight, where the instructor or trainer accompanies the learner to teach him/her the practical aspect of flying. Then the candidate gets his or her first independent flight normally after about 15 hours of dual flying. This includes cross country flying. A total of 60 hours of flying is needed, of which 20 hours minimum should be solo and five hours cross country.

Theory exam: There is a theory examination also, the subjects are: Air Regulations, Aviation Meteorology, Air Navigation, Aircraft Engines, Seamanship.

Eligibility: 10+2 and medical fitness certificate from AFCME or IAM. The age requirement is 17 Years.

Cost: The total cost of obtaining a PPL can be in the range of Rs 2 lakhs to Rs 5 lakhs.

~ Commercial Pilot License (CPL) 

A student can get the CPL by doing his flying training for 129 hours to complete 250 hours of flying. Training facilities are available with Flying Clubs in India, Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Academy (in Rae Bareilly, UP), Private Academies or Flying Schools in USA, Europe, Australia, the Gulf, etc.

Eligibilty: Class XII (Physics and Maths). Current PPL License needed with flying experience in the last three years, 18 to 30 years and medical clearance from AFCME, New Delhi or IAM, Bangalore.

Written exam: A test in the following subjects is needed for getting the CPL: Air Regulations, Aviation Meteorology, Air Navigation, Technical, Planning. These exams are conducted 6 times a year. Actual flying experience required is 250 hours of total flying time (150 hours of solo, 25 hours of cross country, 10 hours of instrument flying, 5 hours of night flying). 

Cost: Anywhere between Rs 8 lakhs and Rs 15 lakhs.  

After a CPL, you can build up on more flying hours, login 750 hours of flight time, clear the requisite papers and acquire a Senior Commercial Pilot's License.

~ Commercial Helicopter Pilots License

Helicopter pilots need to have Commercial Helicopter Pilots License. This license can be acquired in two stages. The Private Helicopter License is granted after 40 hours of flying training (15 hours should be solo) and on clearing the written exams of aviation subjects. 60 hours of flying training has to be completed and a written exam has to cleared.

Helicopter Pilots find employment with the commercial organisations, public sector organisations and other security/protective agencies.

~ All Transports Pilot's License

After an SCPL, you can login 1500 hours of flight time and acquire an All Transports Pilot's License. It allows you to fly any kind of aircraft and no doubt, is the most difficult license to acquire. A pilot receives these licenses only after approval of the DGCA.

Cost: It costs Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 per hour. Often, the airline you work for may sponsor the training costs.

Flying clubs in india

The well-known flying clubs include the Mumbai Flying Club, Delhi Flying Club and the Government Flying Training School in Bangalore, to name a few.

However, the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi in Rae Bareilly (Uttar Pradesh) is the country's premier pilot school. Generally, a candidate is assured of placement when he passes out of the IGRUA. The duration for the CPL is usually eighteen months, although may take up to thirty-six months to clear all the subjects.

Entry to the academy is through a competitive examination, where a candidate's knowledge of aviation subjects, as per PPL standards, and his general knowledge and intelligence levels are tested. Successful candidates are called for an interview and an aptitude test. For eligibility to join the IGRUA, a candidate must be a plus two pass, possess a valid PPL and a current AFCME medical certificate.

Here is a list of flying clubs imparting training in flying from where SPL, PPL, and CPL training can be completed:

Note: make sure that the flying school is recognised by the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation.

For the complete list of DGCA-approved flying schools, visit:

Flying clubs abroad

The advantage of doing a course abroad is that one can complete it in time. In India, training flights may often be delayed if the flying club does not have the requisite aircraft, fuel or trainers.

One can also go abroad for training:

  • Scan American Flight Training, Florida, USA
  • Country Airport, California, USA
  • Aviation Training Inc, California, USA
  • ACME School of Aeronautics, Texas, USA
  • Australian Civil Air Academy, Australia
  • Atlantic Bridge Aviation, Kent, the UK
  • American Flyers International Campus, Ft Lauderale, USA

Visit the following link for a detailed list of flight schools in the US:

If you want to work in India after training abroad, you will have to get an Indian pilot's license.

After getting an American pilot's license, one has to get it converted to an Indian one from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. You may also have to undergo a flying check in India.

Tomorrow: Loans and scholarships available for aspiring pilots

Part I: Want to be a pilot? The sky's the limit

Part II: The highs and lows of being a pilot

Part IV: Pilot's training too expensive? Here's help 

Part V: 'Why I like being a pilot'

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Richa Pant