Kent John Krizman has spent 13 years as a co-pilot at American Airlines. For a chance to move across the cockpit, he’s ready to take a job in China.
“I should be flying as a captain,” said the 52-year-old San Francisco resident, who has 20,000 hours’ experience in jet planes. Promotion won’t happen for at least five more years at American, while in China it could occur straightaway, he said. He and his wife “are all set to go,” he said. Krizman was one of about 550 pilots who attended a China job fair in Miami last week, as first officers find fewer chances for promotion in the U.S. because of slower airline growth and captains retiring later. There are jobs available in China, where a surging economy and a fleet expected to grow 11 percent a year through 2015, according to government forecasts, is creating a need for experienced crewmembers.
“Everyone is facing a pilot shortage,” said Shen Wei, head of pilot recruitment at Shanghai-based budget carrier Spring Airlines (TPRINZ). “Foreign pilots are the quickest option.” To help lure overseas crew members, Spring Air pays foreign pilots 30 percent more than domestic staff, Shen said, without elaboration. Air China Ltd. (753), the nation’s largest international carrier, was offering $198,000 a year net plus bonuses for Airbus SAS A330 pilots, according to an advertisement on the website of Wasinc International, the recruitment company that helped run the job fair. During the two-day Miami event, which featured about a dozen Chinese airlines, about 70 pilots got provisional job offers, said Scott Snow, a spokesman. Doubled Pay Roger Grant, an American Airlines co-pilot, said in Miami that he may be able to about double his salary by moving to China and becoming a captain. He also said a move may offer better long-term prospects.
“I’ve been worried about the direction that the pilot career has been taking,” said the 45-year-old, who lives in Boynton Beach, Florida, with his wife and 7-year-old daughter. Workers across the industry are “getting punished” for mistakes made by major airlines, he said. It’s easier for first officers to become captains in China than the U.S. because of demand rather than lower requirements, said Li Yanhua, an associate professor at Tianjin-based Civil Aviation University of China. Air-traffic controllers in China are already required to speak English, in line with global standards. China Demand Nationwide, the number of pilots in China needs to rise to 40,000 from 24,000 in the five years ending 2015, according to a statement posted on the website of the Civil Aviation Administration of China. There are about 1,700 foreign pilots working in the country, according to Spring Air’s Shen. Calls to the CAAC went unanswered. China Southern Airlines Co. (1055), the nation’s biggest carrier, is looking to hire 725 pilots this year, including 100 from overseas, it said by e-mail. It employs 4,400 pilots. Air China intends to recruit 600 pilots this year, including as many foreigners as possible, it said. The Beijing-based airline has 46 foreign pilots, or less than 2 percent of its roster. In the U.S., first officers are finding it more difficult to get promotions as an increase in the mandatory retirement age for captains to 65 from 60 creates a logjam at the top of chain, said Kit Darby, who runs a pilot-hiring and compensation consulting firm in Peachtree City, Georgia. Pilots who have been promoted at major U.S. carriers are unlikely to leave as even junior captains earn $12,700 per month on average, plus benefits such as pensions that can boost the package by 40 percent, he said. Moving to China may appeal to the 4 percent of the country’s 90,000 pilots that are on furloughs, he said.
“To the furloughed or unemployed pilot an overseas job looks pretty good,” he said. Regional Carriers Pilots at U.S. regional carriers, which fly smaller planes on short-haul routes, have also been caught by the retirement slowdown as they lose opportunities to move to better-paid positions flying larger models at a major airline. Tony Giraldo, 51, for instance, said he has spent 15 years flying “numerous hours on the same equipment with no chance for an upgrade” at American Eagle, which ferries passengers from smaller cities to American Airlines’ airport hubs. He was considering a move to China as it offers “bigger aircraft and new possibilities,” he said. Some American Airlines pilots recently were promoted to captain, 14 years after being hired, the carrier said. The wait for advancement was five years in the growth period of the 1980s and as long as two decades a few years ago, said Sam Mayer, spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association union. AMR Bankruptcy The November bankruptcy filing by AMR Corp., the Fort Worth, Texas-based parent of American Airlines and American Eagle, also spurred Giraldo to consider opportunities elsewhere, he said. Krizman, the American co-pilot, similarly said that concerns about Chapter 11 had “refocused my efforts” to look overseas. American, which has a hub in Miami, wants to cut 400 pilot jobs as part of bankruptcy restructuring, as well as terminating pensions and outsourcing more flying to other carriers. The carrier’s pilots “will remain highly compensated” even after the proposed changes, said Bruce Hicks, a company spokesman. American crew members “have long been among the best compensated in the industry,” he said. China is stepping up pilot training to help meet demand. The Civil Aviation Flight University of China, the country’s biggest training provider, plans to accept 2,400 cadets this year, 33 percent more than last year, it said in e-mailed reply to questions. Using domestic pilots is simpler for Chinese airlines as there are some restrictions on foreigners flying domestic services, largely because the military controls much of the airspace, said Spring Air’s Shen.
“The boom in foreign pilots coming to China may only last a few years,” he said. “When we have more choice in the future, I will prefer our own pilots.”
Babes in the woods. FO time means nothing outside your country (or airline). These guys will take it all in good faith,sign up and find that the story is completely different once there. They may call you 'Captain' but, you will be there to baby sit a young Chinese with just very few hours, and make radio calls. They may offer promotion according to "their rules", which will be a pool system that will always put any newly qualifying local pilot ahead of you.End result, further down the list you go and no command. Once they have their numbers, bye bye. Don't be fooled.It has happened before and it will happen again. You have a contract you say? Just try and enforce it. As for bringing your family there, unless you are an ABC, forget about it!
During the two-day Miami event, which featured about a dozen Chinese airlines, about 70 pilots got provisional job offers
Out of the 70 probably 30 will eventually buy their ticket to China, but only about 12 will pass the stringent CAAC initial medical. After they return to the US to climb the official paperwork mountain, the reality of relocating to a communist country where the employee has no rights whatsoever will, hopefully, sink in before uprooting the family or having a family life via Skype. Perhaps 4 or 5 brave souls will ultimately return.
Hardly worth the Chinese coming to MIA really – and what a cheek, showing up with only kool-aid and no cake!
Oh no.. Now you just get half the dim witted kids excited and will all be glad to "invest" in this downward spiraling profession. Think about it, they are gonna earn 18 big Gs in no time with abundant jobs await.
Attracting and luring is one side of the coin. Treating the people later respectfully is the other.....
Some Asian Employers treat there employee still like in the old days where slavery was present. Changes of the contractual terms are normal without notice, just practiced as it suits the Asian Administrator. Think twice before you make a move and surf thru Threads here to see, only the-tip of the iceberg- here. Reality could be affecting your life much more drastic.
They have been doing this for many years now. Some airlines in China need the applicable type rating and 300 hours P1 experience on this type to view your application. Experience means different things to different people. Be prepared to be treated like the lackey you will be……money isn't everything but in China thats all thats being offered.
I must confess that I find it very strange the amount of negativity posted about this thread. Yes, getting to China as an operating captain is difficult. The medical is really tough. The simulator evaluation is insane and paperwork trail is endless. But once there, you have a really well paid, nice job. From what I have seen, the Chinese are light years away from providing there own pilots, so job security for at least the next ten years is not an issue either. Anyone who is considering China, throw your hat in the ring and give it a go. I recommend it to anyone who has a sense of adventure and a flexible mindset.
The reality with China is that because of the amount of Jeopardy which exists during the initial period and even for every annual medical (you only have to be unlucky and get the wrong doctor), China can not be recommended to Pilots who already have secure and half reasonable jobs in there own country, especially guys with families. A number of people who arrived from a national carrier at my company have recently been released, having failed checks.
Just to add that I have no knowledge of the Chinese taking First Officers, it seems to me that there is no shortage of First Officers. They want experienced Captains.
I'm presently under training here in China. Word of advice, come if you need to put food on table, nothing to lose. Or if you're like me, going for the last few years of making maximum pay in contract pilots' world. In any case, 90% of applicants will fail eventually cos the chinese really don't care, read more about them to understand their culture and how they think. All the best.
Ive seen some crewing companies spout how they offer the security of a 5 year contract. Particularly if they offer you a Captain position. (eg A320 to A330 or B767 to B747). What they dont tell you is you will never be PIC, or be able to log PIC time, you are a cruise Captain. So it will not help you with the next PIC job application.
Are they trying to lock you in on lower pay (assuming over the next five years they have to pay more to get pilots).
What concerns me is your contract is actually only a 6 month contract, as their is a very high likelihood you may fail your 6 monthly medical, and thus lose your job. Read on this forum how a pilot was made to do untold tests and was then required to have an procedure where they insert a tube through an artery and into your heart, he refused and lost his job.
Im also concerned about their punitive culture. A foreign Captain has just been fined $12000USD for an altitude infringement. (certainly not impossible when talking to Chinese controllers and a Chinese FO).
Then theres the incident of a korean Capt being sacked for the Mayday ATC mess, not sure if they were all speaking chinese over the radio. But that airline had its expansion plans stopped and had to downsize by 10%. Not sure if anyone way laid off as a result. But imagine if a plane crashed within your airline, would they be forced to downsize 10%, 30% as a punishment.
Apparently all pilots get extra sims whenever the caac demand, due to an incident in another airline.
It would be a brave move to leave a good job in the West to go to China (unless you can get leave without pay and go back when you wanted).
I know a pilot who is now unemployed as he refused to sign their new contract that would seriously affect his old commuting agreement. So after years working for them for 2 contracts, they try to get you to sign a contract with lower conditions. WTF!
Others lost out on the big bonus at contracts end. Apparently expats have wised up to this. Go for a higher monthly pay with a small bonus paid yearly. You may fail your medical just before your contract ends and your $30,000 payouts due.