July 13, 2008

Class XII Science Remains Eligibility Criterion for Pilots

By Saurabh Sinha

NEW DELHI: Studying science and maths till Class 12 level is going to remain a must for all those who dream of becoming a pilot, for now at least. The aviation ministry has put on hold a radical proposal to relax this rule and make students who have studied science (physics) and maths till Class 10 eligible to become a pilot.

"In the recent past there have been reports of near misses and some other incidents that caused concern for fliers. Clearly, the aviation ministry did not want to take a step, which although perfectly logical, may have led to accusation of diluting standards and imperilling safety," said ministry sources. Not surprisingly, this proposal was recently sent to aviation minister Praful Patel who did not clear it and sought further discussions on the issue.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had made the proposal as the basic things a pilot needs to know are part of the science and maths curriculum in Class 10. These include - conversion of different units; basic maths; trigonometry for calculating height and distance; speed of sound and light; differential pressure; torque and retardation. Moreover, increased automation in cockpits of new-generation aircraft have also made pilots' lives easier.

The backtracking on this issue flies in the face of global requirements for becoming a pilot. In fact, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) - US' stringent regulatory and licensing agency - does not even stipulate any minimum educational qualification for becoming a pilot. It has only three conditions for a beginner to be eligible for the student pilot licence (SPL) after which he or she can go on to the private and commercial pilot licences.

These requirements are - the person should be minimum 16 years of age or 14 for glider and balloon; should be able to "read, speak and understand English" and be medically fit. But clearing the tough FAA exams - both practical and theory - mean that he or she should have knowledge of science and maths but without any compulsory requirement of completing certain level of school.

But ministry and industry sources say they are not concerned with the delay in relaxing of eligibility rules at the moment. Currently the biggest challenge we are facing is that the slowdown in aviation industry has meant airlines have stopped or drastically reduced intake of pilots.

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