A stringent psychological test for pilots in the wake of the Germanwings disaster has led Air India to reject nearly a third of the prospective candidates.
The airline might find it difficult to fill posts for senior trainee pilots for Airbus A320 aircraft.
Air India had advertised in February it would hire 197 pilots for the 60 A320 aircraft it uses in the domestic network. Around 260 candidates were called for the first round of a simulator proficiency test and 160 were chosen for interviews, the final step in hiring.
On Wednesday, Air India made public the names of 91 shortlisted candidates. The actual number could be even lower because 13 are on a standby list. Effectively, the airline has hired 78 pilots, not even half its total requirement. These are type-rated pilots, those experienced in flying A320 aircraft. Airlines usually prefer type-rated pilots because they can be put on duty immediately, as opposed to first training them.
Air India used an independent psychologist from the Indian Air Force (IAF) to check mental fitness of the candidates. 56 out of the total 69 rejected were found psychologically unfit, sources said.
Last month, the co-pilot of a Germanwings flight had deliberately crashed the plane into the French Alps, killing all 150 on board. This raised alarm among aviation authorities worldwide and the focus turned to the mental fitness of pilots. India, too, will frame rules to check the mental health of pilots.
"All the candidates found suitable by the selection board, which includes a psychologist, and taking into account the marks obtained in the simulator proficiency assessment check (SPAC) and the personal interview, have been empanelled for the post of senior trainee pilots," said G P Rao, spokesperson, Air India.
Adding: "Earlier too, while recruiting senior trainee pilots, the selection process comprised SPAC and personal interviews by a duly constituted selection board. This is the first time a psychologist from the Indian Air Force has been associated in the selection board."
Air India is desperate to meet a shortage of pilots caused by resignations, transfers to the Boeing fleet, fleet augmentation and pending retirements.
"The candidates were predominantly rejected on recommendation of the psychologist. A pilot found unfit in the psychologist test, even if he had passed the simulator test, was not selected," sources said.
This was Air India's most extensive recruitment drive in recent times. The airline has hired only three pilots in the last three financial years.
"We are looking to recruit type-rated pilots on priority as they come with experience of flying A320 aircraft. We will fill up the rest of the posts by inviting candidates holding commercial pilots' licences," the executive said.