How to be an airline pilot in India?

How to be an airline pilot in India?

In this article I will give a detailed breakdown of everything one needs to become an airline pilot in India, I will give my personal opinion and advice and also clear some common misconceptions that people generally have.

The first misconception I would clear is that a commercial pilot license course is not a degree or a diploma, at the end of it you are issued licenses and not a degree certificate.

The Indian Government regulatory body for civil aviation is DGCA(directorate general of civil aviation) They issue and maintain a record of all licenses issued to pilots and AME(aircraft maintenance engineers) including medical certificates.

There is no age limit to becoming a pilot from above 18 to 65 years of age one can become a commercial pilot at any time, however, airline hiring process limits the age to 35-40 years of age.

most of you reading this would probably decide to fly right after 12th or consider doing an undergraduate degree, its a personal choice and both pros and cons.

Types of Pilots license

A commercial Pilot’s License or CPL is a license that allows one to fly an endorsed aircraft and get paid for it, A CPL expires when one turns 65 years of age.
A Private Pilot’s license or PPL is a license that allows one to fly an aircraft only for a hobby, leisure or personal transport purposes and not allowed to be paid to fly, It is still valid above 65 years of age.
A Students Pilots license or SPL is a license that allows one to fly and train in a DGCA approved flight school.
Since a SPL can be issued at the age of 16 you can actually start flying and gain hours even before completing 12th std but a CPL would be issued only after you turn 18.

Requirements to become a commercial pilot

The first requirement is to have Mathematics and Physics in 12th standard from any recognized board. This is not a requirement for flight schools abroad but however, when you return to India it is not possible to convert the licenses without Maths and Physics in 12th. Suppose one does not have Physics and Maths can Enroll into NIOS(national Institute if open schooling) and pass these subjects.

Medical Certificates:

All pilots have to undergo an extensive medical exam every year,
Obtaining the initial medical certificates is time-consuming and can be done before completing 12th or in the final year of the degree to save time.
There are 2 types of Medical exams with respect to aviation,

Class 2 medicals:

Class 2 medical exam basically consists of Blood tests, ECG, Chest X-ray, Vision test, ENT etc. Class 2 is not considered to be very strict and most generally healthy people can easily pass it.
For flight training, glider licenses or even a PPL class 2 certificate is sufficient.
How to get a class 2 medical test done? in this link you will find all the medical examiners who are approved to conduct a class 2 exam, contact them to set up an appointment and follow the instructions.
Class 2 medical exams take about 4-5 hours and at the end of It a CA35 form will be given upon clearing the medicals. The doctor will take care of further documentation.
Medical records of a Pilot are maintained in Unique File Numbers which will be given after clearing class 2.
The final Class 2 assessment itself will be Couriered home after 2-3 months or you would be required to collect it from DGCA directly.
Class 2 medicals cost an approximate of 3000-5000 rupees depending on the doctor.

Class 1 Medicals:

Class 1 is a more extensive test, Initial medicals are conducted only by the Indian Airforce hospitals and 2 private hospitals while renewals can be done by many private aeromedical examiners.
After the class 2 final assessment is obtained you can apply to clear class 1 medicals which will cost Rs3000-4000 at Airforce hospitals like AFCME in Delhi, IAM in Bangalore etc.
It’s not very hard to clear for a healthy person, they do not make you run on treadmills as people usually assume.
Class 1 is required to get a CPL issued. One can go for Class 1 and 2 medicals even before the 12th standard is completed to help speed up the process of Flight training.
Class 1 is valid for 1 year while class 2 is valid for 2 years, The renewals are quicker and easier than initial.

Can people who wear spectacles become pilots?
Yes! Your vision should be 6/6 with or without spectacles.
DGCA has published all the medical documents related to conditions like Asthma, Diabetes etc and are fairly easy to understand.

Next step is to Enroll at a Flight school

There are a number of flight schools to choose from, some of the best ones in India are IGURA, Chimes aviation academy, NFTI, MPFC etc.
One can join a flight school only after 12th and CPL is issued only after attaining the age of 18, however, PPL is issued at the age of 17.

Ground school and CPL exams:

There are 5 exams that you need to clear for CPL, These exams are valid for 5 years and you need not have any flying experience or even enroll at a flight school to clear them, only a computer number is required to attempt the exams. The subjects and common books that can be used to study for them:
1) Air navigation by Oxford aviation series and Wg. Cdr R.K. Bali(Retd)
2) Aviation meteorology by Group Captain IC Joshi
3) Air regulations by Wg. Cdr R.K. Bali(Retd)
4) Technical general – Oxford aviation series
5) Technical specific – This is specific to the Type of aircraft you will do your flying training with.
Ground school is also provided by the flight school or you can clear the subjects by attending several private ground schools across the country that help you clear the exams quicker.
DGCA exams are conducted online every 3 months in major cities across the country.

Flying training:

In order to get a CPL, you have to fly 185 hours in a single engine aircraft that is approved by DGCA, in India we use Cessna 172,152 mainly with some schools having Diamond DA40.
At the end of the course at a flight school, you will be issued a CPL, Instrument rating (IR) and a Multi-engine rating (MER).
An Instrument rating certifies a pilot to fly in the night and a Multi-engine rating is obtained after flying 15 hours in a DGCA approved Multi-engine aircraft such as the DA42, Piper Seneca etc.
Many flight schools give a certain number of hours on single and multi-engine aircraft simulators as well.
The main dilemma many faces is deciding whether to do flying training in India or abroad, which can another article itself.
You can go abroad to do your flight training and there are many pros and cons of it, However after returning to India you have to clear all DGCA exams and fly the required hours to get the license converted and it takes 1-3 months, Its ideal to clear all DGCA exams and then go abroad for flying.

Obtaining a Computer Number:

A computer number is a Unique ID given to all Pilots which is an Online record of your exams and endorsements.
A computer number is obtained after filling the online application and sending DGCA the required documents such as Board verification certificates, Address, and Id proofs, 10th and 12th marks card and print out of the online application form. These documents have to be couriered to DGCA within 10 days of filling the online application at
A computer number can be obtained without the help of a flight school as well, you can obtain a computer number individually and clear the exams during your degree to get your CPL faster.

What is Radiotelephony license? (RTR)

An RTR license is issued by the Ministry of communications to transmit and receive on Air traffic control frequency. It’s a separate exam and viva that many people usually take more than one attempts to clear. It can be obtained with a lifetime validity for a cost of Rs 20,000.RTR is required to apply for FRTOL (Flight radiotelephone operator’s license) to commence flying training.
There are many private coaching classes around the country that help you clear this notorious exam as well.
The course duration for a CPL course in India can be considered an Average 12-18 months. The average cost of CPL, IR, and MER comes up to 32 lakh rupees depending on the flight school and current aviation fuel rates.


An airline operates jet aircrafts such as the Boeing 737, Airbus A320 etc. and one needs to get licensed on these aircraft and this is called Type-Rating (TR). The training is done on a full-motion simulator that replicates the actual cockpit, these simulators cost approximately $2 million.
TR usually takes 45-60 days of Ground studies and simulator sessions where you would be taught how to handle several kinds of failures, it has to be renewed every 6 months with a Type rating examiner who will check if you are capable of handling certain failures on type.
There are a few Type rating centers in India such as FSTC, CTE-Air India, CAE etc.

Airline jobs:

After you get your CPL, IR, and MER you would be eligible to apply for certain airline job vacancies. Airlines hiring fresher pilots have 2 types of vacancy
1) Non-Rated fresher vacancies:
Fresher with CPL, IR and MER along with a valid class 1 medical can apply for these vacancies.
Depending on the airline there will be a written exam followed by group discussion, aptitude test, and a personal interview.
After being selected you will be asked to pay for Type rating and the airline depending on the slots will send you for TR to their approved centers not necessarily in India. The Entire cost would be borne by you and would come up to an approximate of 25 lakh rupees.
After TR you would be trained on airline SOP(Standard operating procedures), CRM (crew resource management), MCC (multi-crew cooperation) courses followed by Base and line training after a check you will be finally released as a junior first officer.

2) Type rated zero-time vacancy
Fresher with CPL, IR, MER and Type rating on the type of aircraft specified by the airline along with a valid class 1 medical can apply for this vacancy.
The process of induction is same as above mentioned category however since TR is already done you would be directly training on airline SOP, CRM (crew resource management), MCC (multi-crew cooperation) courses followed by Base and line training after a check you will be finally released as a junior first officer.

It takes a lot of hard work, passion, dedication and a certain amount of luck to make it as an airline pilot considering the fact that it’s a very volatile industry with a lot of competition.

Thanks for reading!

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