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Pilots are deserting IAF, says chief

April 24, 2006

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NEW DELHI, April 23: Ace flying officers of the Indian Air Force are deserting their patriotic career to earn more money as commercial pilots with domestic airlines and the government must help check the exodus, Air Chief Marshal S. P. Tyagi was quoted as saying on Sunday.

“Yes, I am sure young people get attracted by fat pay scales that the commercial world has to offer. The commercial world always offers more salary than government service,” the air force chief rued in an interview to a private news channel.

He said the phenomenon of higher pay scales was not new but this time ‘perhaps the differential has increased, which is new’.

“The first thing is they have to serve the IAF. That‘s the contract for as long as I need them,” he said.

“I want them to earn money. If they want to go, I don‘t have a problem. My problem is that I did not recruit sufficient pilots to take care of the boom in civil market. I recruited enough pilots that I needed.

“Now, if I allow many of them to go, then who will fly my machines? So, who will do the relief work in the earthquakes, the tsunami and the floods? Can I go and tell the people of India – sorry, I can‘t come to your help, I can‘t win this war because all my pilots are flying airliners. No, not really,” Tyagi said.

He said the IAF was looking for some way out to overcome this problem. “We are approaching the government. We will try and look how will our conditions get better.”

The IAF chief admitted there had been some fall in the number of squadrons of IAF from 30 to 35, but said: “If you see what is on its way, the picture does not look as bad as you (media) have made out.

“True, there have been delays in the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) but we hope to induct the LCA‘s First Squadron by 2009. Next year, we will be inducting the Hawk. We also intend inducting 80 new helicopters. The Avey will start arriving by the end of next year.

“In addition, 20 Jaguars have been ordered from HAL, 60 advance light helicopters, we have accelerated the production of Sukhoi-30 aircraft. If I can cope up with all this, I can assure that we are not so badly placed,” Tyagi said.

Talking about the vision of IAF up to 2025, he said: “I see that the IAF besides tackling the conventional threats, which are known to everybody, will also have to take on additional roles.

“We have to look not only at international borders and boundaries, we have to look at extended boundaries. By extended boundaries, I don‘t mean we go and occupy other nations but our interests will extend,” he said.

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