With the Indian aviation industry in for sweeping changes, young aspirants may well realize their dream of earning their wings, says Dr. N G R Iyengar
After a slight slug in early 2013, the Indian aviation industry is on the way to bounce back with a projected growth of six per cent this year. What’s more it is set to become the 3rd largest aviation market by 2020.
In October last, India’s civil aviation segment grew by 11.5 per cent only in domestic air traffic. This coincided with another interesting development. In their market forecasts last year, Airbus and Boeing estimated a demand from India for 1,232 and 1,450 planes.
The growth of the private airline industry here has led to a steep rise in the number of private airlines and airports. Quite evidently, private airlines have been living up to the reputation of being an employment generator, considering the number of employment opportunities it offers. In the 12th economic plan, major investments- to the tune of $8000- have been allotted for the airports. Mumbai and Delhi will be getting an investment of $3000 million each, while Kolkata and Chennai have been allotted $1000 million each; another $ 2000 have been earmarked for air traffic improvement and modernization. The remainder will go into Greenfield projects.
The entry of private players into the field and the adoption of the PPP model have heralded changes in this sector. A Model Concession Agreement is being developed for standardizing and simplifying the PPP transactions for airports, on the analogy of the highways sector. This would include upgrading of the ATC services at the airports. Issues relating to customs, immigration and security are also being resolved in a manner that enhances the efficiency of airport usage. The Airport Authority of India is planning to set up the second Greenfield airport at Navi Mumbai using a PPP model at an estimated cost of USD 2.5 billion.
The aviation industry has two main branches:
Operational and maintenance branch.
While pilots are entrusted with flying the aircraft, aircraft maintenance engineers are concerned with its maintenance. The present day aircrafts are very sophisticated and require pilots to have good knowledge. Narrowing down to the opportunities for the ground staff, the maintenance engineer is responsible for the control, maintenance and repair of the specialized aircraft. Testing of engine controls, avionics and the very need for maintenance of the new advanced aircrafts becomes a challenge in itself. This calls for a very high degree of technical knowledge, competence, proficiency, dexterity and integrity on part of the concerned personnel. Aircraft engineers need to research, design, and manufacture and maintain aircraft. They work on any and every mechanical aspect of the craft, including airframes, avionics, hydraulics and pneumatics, engines and fuel systems and control and communications systems.
Aeronautical/aerospace engineers work on all kinds of aircrafts ranging from gliders to space shuttles. Development of new technology in the field of aviation, space exploration and defense systems have generated the need for aeronautical/aerospace engineers. Every aircraft needs proper maintenance and overhauling before it is certified to fly. The engineering division in aviation sector is responsible for ensuring that aircrafts are fit to fly and specializes in research and development, and maintenance of commercial and military aircraft, missiles, spaceships, spacecrafts etc. Aeronautical engineering also has vast research opportunities in both government and private industries
The career roles in aerospace industry can be grouped under broad categories of managers, analysts, consultants, scientists, and maintenance and design engineers. As technical jobs for the aviation sector are increasingly becoming a hot-cake, the opportunities for B. Tech and M. Tech fresher with different specializations are booming. At the same time, there is an increase in the number of people who are looking for a change in managerial jobs, and who are particularly suited to the needs of aviation.
Although the investment figures and the job roles are impressive enough to convince people about opportunities in the aviation sector, what needs to be probed into is the question of availability of skilled manpower tailored to the needs of this sector. Although India has numerous aircraft training academic installations including pilot training institutes, the focus now needs to be on quality of education and the research capabilities. It is always better to have responsible pilots and effective managers rather than creating their semi-skilled counterparts.
The author is the director, Institute of Aerospace Engineering and Management, Jain University