Over 1,700 passenger aircraft will be converted to freighter aircraft over next 20 years globally of which, 600 will be within Asia. India will need 31,000 pilots and 26,000 mechanics over the next 20 years. Over the next five years, India will see a massive transformation in training. Boeing India is in dialogue with the government to see synergies, Salil Gupte, President, Boeing India said.

On Friday, Boeing said it would set up a facility in India to convert 737 passenger planes into dedicated freighters to tap into regional and global demand for the service with GMR Aero Technic to set up the first Boeing freighter conversion line. 

According to Boeing’s Commercial Market Outlook, India’s air cargo growth is expected to average 6.3 per cent annually, driven by the country’s manufacturing and e-commerce sectors, including its Make in India initiative. 

“There is a demand to convert more than 1,700 passenger planes globally into freighters over the next 20 years, with about 600 coming from Asia,” Gupte said. According to its press statement, Boeing forecasts demand for more than 75 freighters, including production and converted freighters within India. 

To expand cargo segment

Indian airlines including SpiceJet, IndiGo and Air India have said that they plan to expand their cargo segment. Gupte explained that he sees a potential to generate customers from these airlines along with cargo start-up airlines within the country too. 

Ashok Gopinath, CEO, GMR Aero Technic too was extremely bullish about the said collaboration, “With the rise in the Indian aviation industry, MRO services in India has been one of the fastest- growing markets globally.”

Boeing has recently bagged a sizable order from Air India. However, Gupte refused to comment on the delivery schedule. 

Pressing issue

Another pressing issue within the country has been about finding the right manpower for the airlines, along with the infrastructure to train them. Air India has made an announcement to operate one of the largest training academies. 

According to Gupte, there is a need for a large number of pilots and mechanics. “We have an opportunity to develop that skilling in India. Today, we are losing our talent to other countries. We have that opportunity to retain that talent in India if we develop a programme to retain them within India itself,” he noted.

Speaking about the potential within this segment, Gupte said that Boeing India is in talks with the government to identify areas of collaboration to “understand what are the pilot training and maintenance capabilities that we need here. Along with this, as a long-term project, we are also assessing the requirements for the simulators that we need in India. We don’t have a firm projection of when we can hope to have the said capacities but I am bullish that within the next five years, India’s landscape on flight academies to simulator training will be transformed.”