New Delhi Faced with an acute shortage of trainer aircraft, the Indian Air Force has cut down flying time for rookie pilots to one-third, altering its training programme for officers at the Air Force Academy (AFA) in Dundigal, Andhra Pradesh. Cadets joining the academy now are getting only 25 hours of flying experience in the first stage of training, sources said, down from the minimum requirement of 75 flying hours that was the norm before the entire fleet of HPT 32 basic trainers was grounded two years ago due to technical reasons. The first stage of training lasts for six months. Sources said the number of flying hours in the first stage had dwindled even lower over the past two years due to the shortage but has now been kept steady with optimum management of the resources. While pilots who are selected for the fighter branch do manage to get ten extra hours before moving on to the second stage of training on Kiran Mk II aircraft, others who are selected for helicopter and transport fleet move to the second stage training after flying for barely 25 hours. The grounding of the HPT 32 fleet has put the entire onus of basic training on the Kiran Mk 1 trainers that were earlier being used for stage two training. The problem is the quantity of available aircraft. All 114 HPTs have been grounded and the IAF has just 96 Kiran Mk Iâ€™s for the first stage training. Even with the Kirans being stretched to their maximum flying potential, there are simply not enough aircraft for rookie pilots to log flying hours. Cadets are now being selected for trifurcation into the helicopter, fighter or transport stream on the basis of their performance in the first 25 hours of flying. The shortage has had a cascading effect. The IAF has disbanded its aerobatic flying team â€” the Suryakirans were flying Kirans â€” to make aircraft available for training. The Air Force Academy has had to delay its passing-out parade this year by almost a month as cadets could not complete mandatory flying in time for the regular date. The situation is not likely to change over the next few years as the first new aircraft for basic training will take at least three years to arrive after acquisition is approved by the Union Cabinet. Even though the Hawk advanced jet trainers are arriving in greater numbers, the shortage at the first stage is expected to continue. Efforts are on by HPT 32â€™s manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to get the aircraft off the ground by fitting it with a ballistic recovery system â€” a massive parachute that safely brings down the entire aircraft in case of engine failure. But this has not found much favour with the IAF that is keen to import new basic trainer aircraft. Shortage of trainer aircraft, so IAF cuts flying time of rookie pilots to one-third - Express India Course time 6-months = 25 flying hrs!!!!!