India, like many developing nations,
puts legal restrictions on its military pilots, to prevent them from leaving
for more lucrative jobs in civil aviation. This is making it more difficult to
recruit new military pilots. Many potential military pilots note that airline
pilots make twice what air force generals make, and much more than lower
ranking officers. Increasingly, it makes better economic sense for an educated,
and physically qualified young Indian to go into debt to go through commercial
flying school, in order to eventually qualify for an airline job.
In response, India now provides an added incentive
for these men to join the air force. Each year, the air force will allow an
unspecified number of senior pilots (including generals, who are still
qualified to fly) to leave the service and take an airline job. An air force
general in his mid 50s makes about $17,000 a year (after taxes), but can
quickly make twice that as a co-pilot in an airliner. The older air force
pilots can fly commercial aircraft until they are 65. The higher pay, plus
their military pension, gives younger military pilots something to look forward
to. The pilots of these commercial airlines are usually younger than their
newly retired co-pilots, but these military pilots often have over 4,000 hours
in the air, and that experience is appreciated.
This program isn't just about improving the morale
of military pilots, there is a severe shortage of airliner pilots worldwide. In
many countries, including the United States, this is forcing airlines to cancel
an increasing number of flights.