Aviation News

Air India taps Airbus, L3Harris for training unit, Infra News, ET Infra


Air India is in talks with aerospace majors, including L3Harris and Airbus, as potential partners for its big crew training facility and will be disclosing more details in January, CEO and MD Campbell Wilson said in a recent interview.

People in the know said the companies will likely be making strategic investments in the $200-million facility.

“We are partnering with a couple of OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to set up simulator training centres: Airbus, Boeing L3Harris. We will be talking a little more about that in January,” said Wilson.

He didn’t elaborate on the nature of the partnership of investment from partners.

L3Harris, formed in 2019 by the merger of American companies L3 Technologies and Harris Corp, has business interests in segments including aerospace communications, integrated mission systems, space and airborne systems.

The training centre would be critical for training pilots to fly the large number of planes the airline will receive over the next five years, starting December.

In June, Air India placed a historic order for 470 aircraft from Boeing and Airbus. The airline will need over 5,000 pilots to fly these planes. India needs 1,700 pilots every year, half of which have to be captains. It, however, produces just 200.

“We hopefully will be inducting the first group of cabin crew in January. It’s a responsibility that we take very seriously, investing a lot of money in it. It’s crucial for us as an airline to grow and to grow our capabilities and become world class. One thing that we know for sure is that this industry requires a lot of good trained people and India has a lot of good people that just need to be trained,” he said.

New aircraft are critical for Air India to upgrade its ageing fleet and product if it wants to regain its long lost status of a globally relevant airline. The airline, which had climbed the ranks in on-time performance in April, has slipped in recent months to be among the bottom three airlines, according to the data from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) regarding on-time performances in four major metro airports which handle more than 60% of India’s air traffic.

By March, Air India will get the delivery of 4 Boeing 777 planes and six Airbus A350 wide-bodied planes, which means that a quarter of its wide-bodied fleet then will be sporting latest generation products.

“Then in July, August of next year, we put our all legacy aircraft through a retrofit programme, which will take about 18 months, so that by the end of 2025, all of our aircraft have been upgraded to the latest standards of seats and entertainment and other amenities,” he said.

The Tata group took over Air India on January 27, 2022 from the government which had put it on the block for privatisation. In the last 1 year, the airline has been charting out ways to leverage the strengths of the Tata group companies, including Tata Technologies that recently launched its IPO.

Tata Technologies is “doing some work for us in digitising certain seat components so we can get spares manufactured amongst other things,” said Wilson, adding Tata Alexi is helping the airline with a lot of “design work”.

Air India recently launched a generative AI powered chatbot and will introduce more generative AI-powered solutions, said Wilson.

“We are one of the few companies in the world that are using Microsoft’s (AI tool) copilot embedded into our enterprise suite. We use it every day in all of our tools. And many teams across the business are hard at work, thinking about how we can bring it into our daily business life, using it behind the scenes to improve such things as revenue management. I do think it’s going to be quite transformative. It certainly has the opportunity to improve efficiency and effectiveness and as a consequence, cost and service delivery…”

  • Published On Nov 27, 2023 at 08:10 AM IST

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