THE MARTIANS have landed in Greater Noida, but the alien tripod fighting machines seem strangely non-violent. Science fiction fans may recognise the reference to the three-legged machines the Martians used when invading earth; for those who prefer their fiction without the science (or vice versa), it’s a shout-out to the H.G. Wells classic, The War of the Worlds (and the subsequent movies based on this).

Reality is a little duller than fiction: these giant contraptions are actually flight simulators installed at the country’s largest pilot-training facility in Greater Noida, some 35 km away from Delhi. The facility will eventually train as many as 5,000 pilots annually. Inside, the simulators mimic the cockpit of an aircraft down to the last detail and can recreate almost all the challenging situations a pilot might face while flying.

The $25 million (Rs 154.4 crore) facility, including the building and equipment, is a 50:50 joint venture between InterGlobe Enterprises (which runs the airline IndiGo) and Canadian company CAE Simulation Training. CAE Simulation Training specialises in aviation and defence training, modelling, and simulation.

The simulators are being used to train for the Airbus A320, which IndiGo, GoAir, and Air India fly. Four more will be installed in two years and another two after that, taking the total to eight over the next five years. IndiGo and GoAir pilots are using the simulators for type rating (unlike cars, where one licence is good for all makes, pilots have to be trained and certified for each type of aircraft they fly) and other kinds of training.

Until recently, these airlines had to send pilots to places such as Singapore and Dubai for training, as facilities in Mumbai, owned by Air India and Jet Airways, were meant for pilots from those carriers.

From being ninth largest, India is expected to become the world’s third-largest aviation market, after the U.S. and China, by 2020. With the demand for pilots expected to go up, the Greater Noida simulators will provide some tailwind.

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