[photopress:air_sichuan_new_Taieanese_pilot.jpg,full,alignright]There are simply not enough pilots in China. The government, very intelligently, has frozen out about two dozen new airlines simply because there are not the pilots to go around.
Now, Sichuan Airlines has hired 12 pilots from Taiwan. This is the second batch from the island province. Our illustration sees some of them accepting their wings.
The same airline recruited eight pilots on three- to six-year contracts two year ago, becoming the first mainland carrier to employ Taiwan pilots.
Taiwan pilots are flying to and from Nanjing, Xi’an, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.
According to the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC) the air transport industry has been growing at an annual rate of 16%,
In 2006, the authorities estimated that the country would need 9,100 more pilots by 2010 to fly the new Boeing and Airbus planes being added to Chinese carriers’ fleets at the rate of 100-150 a year.
The gap between the demand and supply of pilots is likely to be 2,000 by 2010.
China can now produce 1,400 new pilots a year, including the 400-odd that come out of China Civil Aviation Flight College (whose alumni include 90% of the country’s 11,000 pilots.)
The rest were trained by airlines, which prepare students in theories in aviation colleges and universities at home, and send them abroad for flight lessons.
Dearth of pilots is a problem common to all mainland airlines, from the big three – Air China, China Eastern and China Southern – to the private ones. To overcome the problem, they have sought the help of domestic aviation colleges and universities, as well as foreign flight schools.
Professor Li Xiaojin of the Tianjin-based Civil Aviation University of China says at least four carriers – Shenzhen Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, China Southern and China Eastern – have adopted this strategy to get enough pilots for their fleets.
CAAC’s Flight Standard Department official Yang Hu put it very neatly. He said, ‘The problem is that no matter how many pilots are trained every year, each new plane that is delivered needs five pilots and five first officers to ensure a smooth operation.’
Fresh flight school graduates can be employed as first officers for the first six to seven years after, and only after that can they become full-fledged pilots.
But the airlines buying the new Airbuses and Boeings cannot wait that long.
Airbus alone is expected to deliver 372 planes to Chinese airlines from December 2007 to 2012. Boeing is expected to supply another 335 aircraft.
So far, 491 overseas pilots have got their licenses from CAAC to work for Chinese airlines. Some experts say the shortage of pilots won’t last long. The country could have more than enough pilots as early as in five years. This seems grossly over-optimistic. And no suggestion is made as to what should be done during those five years.
Source: China Daily