View Full Version : Chinese Pilot Shortage

31st Oct 2006, 12:06
I am currently on a 3 day layover in China and came across the following article in todays China Daily "Business Weekly."

The guts of the article is that China is going to be 10,000 (Ten Thousand) pilots short in the next 5 years.

Mods, please move if you think another forum is more appropriate:

Empty cockpits
By LU HAOTING(China Daily)
Updated: 2006-10-30 06:27

A couple of years ago, it was not news if a pilot resigned from an airline in China. And such resignations were not met with lawsuits between the airline and the pilot.

Until four months ago, nobody had imagined a pilot graduating from a private pilot training school could eventually fly passenger jets in China.

These situations, however, are becoming more common because of a problem threatening the nation's booming aviation industry: pilot shortage.

The reason for the problem is simple. China's commercial aviation industry is taking off faster than the country can train pilots.

"The Chinese commercial aviation industry has been growing 12-14 per cent annually," said Zheng Xiaoyong, president of the Civil Aviation Flight University of China (CAFUC), in China Youth Daily. "There is likely to be a pilot shortage of 10,000 in the next five years and the shortage could grow to 18,000 by 2015."

About 11,000 pilots currently serve commercial airlines in China, flying nearly 900 aircraft, according to statistics from the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC). Nearly 1,000 of them are nearing retirement age. China will add about 100 aircraft annually in the next five years, CAAC says. About 2,000 extra pilots will be needed every year to cope with the expanded fleets.

The market is demanding more new pilots than it can train. The Sichuan-based CAFUC, which trains 90 per cent of China's pilots, is able to send out about 600 well-trained pilots per year. A small number of pilots graduate from the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Civil Aviation University of China. There are also some army men transferred from the air force.

"It is inevitable to see drastic pilot shortage in the coming years," Zheng says.

Zheng's university doubled its enrollment to 1,200 students this year. The 50-year-old university, with 107 trainer jets, plans to add 55 new trainers with an investment of 1 billion yuan (US$126 million) in the near future.

Private schools

The undersupply of pilots has made the pilot training market attractive to private investors. The Chinese Government gave the green light to private pilot training schools in November 2003.

China's first privately-owned pilot training school, Beijing PanAm International Aviation Academy, was established at the beginning of 2004. It is the first in China to adopt a Euro-American style training syllabus, teaching and operation system. It is also the first to use English as the language of instruction and foreign teaching materials throughout the whole process. Finally, it's the first to employ all flight instructors from abroad.

With 31 trainer aircraft, PanAm Aviation is able to train 300 students at one time. It now has about 240 students. The first group of pilots graduated in June and they work for Hainan Airlines and China Eastern Airlines.

But opening a private pilot training school is by no means easy in China.

"It is very difficult. From the establishment of the school to enrolling new students, every step was difficult," says Li Weijian, president of PanAm Aviation.

The import tariff of trainer jets is 21 per cent, much higher than the 5-6 per cent tariff on large aircraft. Meanwhile, the school has to cope with high costs for fuel, for jet landing and take-off, and strict air space regulation in China.

Despite the challenges, the key driving force behind PanAm Aviation may be the pilot shortage that threatens the industry.

The private pilot training school has signed flight-training agreements with 12 Chinese airlines. It has two flight training bases, one in Zhengding Airport of Hebei Province and the other in Binzhou Airport of Shandong Province. PanAm Aviation plans to acquire a general aviation airport in Beijing in the next three years.

But pilot training schools only produce "junior" pilots. A new graduate still has a long way to go to become a real civil flight pilot. It takes half a year of extra training for them to become assistant pilots. To become a captain, it takes another five to eight years.


Some airlines have opened their cockpits to foreign pilots. But foreigners must pass strict examination to obtain their licences and they are usually not allowed to fly international routes. Also, the recruitment of overseas pilots is occurring on a scale too small to meet the growing demand.

To save time and cost of training, some Chinese airlines compete to offer better salaries and benefits to lure native pilots from their rivals. The competition has led to a new problem: job-hopping.

Some industry insiders say the CAAC initially encouraged pilots to transfer to different airlines nationwide to facilitate exchanges and competition among the airline industry. Previously pilots were only given local certificates that allowed them to work in a certain region. But now they are given national certificates that allow them to work across the country.

In May last year the CAAC and four other related ministries jointly introduced a regulation to "ensure stability of the pilot teams in the Chinese civil aviation." The rules state that the new employer, to recruit pilots, should consult with the present employer and pay between 700,000 yuan and 2.1 million yuan (US$88,607-$265,823) to the former employer in compensation.

In reality, airlines impose much larger compensation charges on pilots who quit to work for competing airlines to prevent talent drainage. More than 100 pilots have submitted resignations to their employers since 2004 and were asked to compensate at least 5 million yuan (US$632,911) each. The compensation for a captain could reach 12 million yuan (US$1.5 million).

China's labour-arbitration authorities have been busy settling disputes between the pilots and their original employers over job-hopping charges.

Insiders say only about 20 pilots have successfully jumped to their ideal new employers, while the rest are still trapped in labour arbitration or lawsuits.

(China Daily 10/30/2006 page6 :ok:

31st Oct 2006, 12:43
Do you mean a Chinese pilot shortage or a Pilot Shortage in China ?!?;)

31st Oct 2006, 13:29
Zheng's university doubled its enrollment to 1,200 students this year. The 50-year-old university, with 107 trainer jets, plans to add 55 new trainers with an investment of 1 billion yuan (US$126 million) in the near future.

Did I read that correctly? the ab-initios get jet time?

31st Oct 2006, 14:19
I read the number of 50 000 pilots needed for the next 10 or 20 years...!

31st Oct 2006, 15:10
Do you mean a Chinese pilot shortage or a Pilot Shortage in China ?!?

Its a fair point arc. At the moment it would appear to be a Chinese pilot shortgage, but with those kind of numbers I think its a safe bet that it will soon become a pilot shortage in China. No training system in the world can address that shortfall in the available timescale.:ok:

Few Cloudy
1st Nov 2006, 12:28
Just had a job offer from Rishworth, who have my CV still on file...

In this CV you can see that I retired at 60 four years ago.

Before I filled out all the bumph again I thought I'd check on the restrictions -
turns out that you can apply up to age 63 and fly to 65 anyway - not that that includes FC, who is of course 64.

Great chances for pilots wanting a bit of adventure these days - I'd be off to Japan or China or India and out of the European jungle given a couple of years! Listening to some of the younger colleagues who seemed to be nailed in place and can't possibly move for all sorts of reasons is a bit frustrating.

Where is the spirit of adventure gone?


Front Office
10th Nov 2006, 03:26
I was just called again....

They up'ed the offer, now it's $10K per month cash, tax free to start.... on the A320.

10th Nov 2006, 03:48
Excuse me but was this a job in China that allowed flying to the age of 65?

Our info is that they are still limiting age to 60.


13th Nov 2006, 01:56
I was just called again....
They up'ed the offer, now it's $10K per month cash, tax free to start.... on the A320.

Captain or FO?


13th Nov 2006, 10:32
If the salary stated is for F/O they will be flooded with applicants... :)

If it is for Captains, then it very much depends on what the fringe benefits are (housing, transport etc) because that is pretty average.... :hmm:

14th Nov 2006, 15:46
If they're looking for Captains then I'd be interested but it would have to be a lot more than 10k per month and as the previous posts say, transport and decent accomodation would have to be looked at. If anyone has more details or other links then please post here

Front Office
14th Nov 2006, 15:59
Its all inclusive, driver, housing, 30 days paid off a year, $10K a month tax free for Captain. Its like making more than $17K a month in the USA.

2 free tickets home a year.

If you need more info please PM me.

16th Nov 2006, 06:23
Which China are we talking about here... Taiwan China or the Shanghai/Beijing/Hong Kong China?


Front Office
16th Nov 2006, 15:06

16th Nov 2006, 16:05
There has been some baiting and switching going on in China... Promising high pay, housing, benefits, the usual. During the interview process pay is not as hight as projected for at least the first year of the contract. Not all housing expenses are paid for. Cheap transportation is arranged by the companies. Benefits are very limited. Return travel to where your family lives in coach and not even business class, guaranteed seat however. So buyer beware.

16th Nov 2006, 17:27
Heard from Rishworths on the below.
"We have an exciting new opportunity with OKAY Airlines based in Tianjin, China!
We will be able to offer a competitive package including:
Salary: $US8200
Accommodation Allowance: $US500
2 x return tickets per year"

Wasn't impressed so I didn't apply.

16th Nov 2006, 22:46
Working in China you have to :
Pass the medical - very difficult.
Pass the Chinese ATPL exam 100 questions 70% Pass mark - not easy.
Pass the English/Radio Test - Not so easy and many native English speakers have failed this test.

contact [email protected] if you need questions etc for the above. She is very helpful and will even supply you with a cd.


17th Nov 2006, 03:14
I was in Shanghai with a top dog airline for a while.

Getting money out of the country is an issue. Getting to work safely is a major issue. Getting accomodation is an issue. Getting your salary explained, and paid, is an issue. Getting clearances to start engines is even an issue.

My advice: go somewhere else, or expect to be shafted at every turn whilst seeing that as a growth opportunity.

Unless accomodation is fully provided, taxes are paid, education arranged, business travel seating is guaranteed for your commuting, and positioning at the company's behest, roster patters displayed at interview (never done) and, perhaps more importantly, the banking industry is explained to you in detail, which it won't be, you're in for a very big surprise.

But hey, it's character building, right?

One other thing I might add is that the ATPL is a breeze. Just like the US system. You do the test on a computer whose database randomly chooses a batch of questions for you from 2500. The pass rate is 70%, but come on, you know your subject matter, right? And the English test is actually very sound. The speech test? Too easy. Come on.....just listen carefully to the controller and don't rush the answer, which must be spoken slowly and clearly into the computer microphone.

As for the medical, just ease off the sugar, salt and junk food for a year while you pump a modest amount of iron in a gym or invest in a pair of goggles and swim 500m a day. You'll pass like everyone else. And don't forget to ditch the caffeine, people.

Good luck.......

17th Nov 2006, 04:49
Appreciate the reality check from 4PW's.
hmm, VERY sobering indeed..

And as to the China pilot shortage, I predict there will never be massive flight cancellations:
The Chinese welcome South Americans, and WHEN will the eternally bankrupt economy that part of the world EVER stop producing thousands of jobless pilots??
VARIG ring a bell to anyone?
––Keep in mind the $ they can earn in China is roughly 50 times the average statistical income back home.

17th Nov 2006, 10:25
The Atpl used to be a breeze. The databank has been increased, 10-15 questions on Chinese regulations and some in Chinese. The CAAC tightened up on everything since loads of S.Americans came to Shenzhen.

China is a great place to be just have loads of patience.

Ignition Override
18th Nov 2006, 07:03
Does China's legal system have strong clout and authority? Perhaps it was an article in "the New York Times", or in the magazine "the Economist". A Chinese lady was quoted saying that the PRC has no actual 'rule of law'.
If this is accurate, then what good is a contract, or regulations?

The writer of an article several years ago in "Business Week" magazine about the growth of Chinese airlines claimed that many B-737 pilots flew 120 or more hours per month.
Admittedly I know almost nothing about the PRC.

23rd Nov 2006, 03:05
Ignition Overide is right about the shortage of pilot in China. Currently I know of about 200 foreign captains flying for Chinese airlines. It is not uncommon to hear a foreign voice using English operating a Chinese airliner. They are from everywhere, the Far East, Europe and the Americas. On arrival they are permitted to fly for a short time on a validation of their foreign licence and then they have to get a Chinese one. This is the usual air law exams etc but you also have to do the CAAC English Proficiency and RT Test. This is the exam that Chinese pilots need to pass to go international and you need it as well. The fact that you may be English and flying for donkey's years doesn't matter. Non English foreign pilots fail it regularly. One of the limitations of a foreigner's Chinese licence is that he is not allowed to use the Chinese language whilst operating the aircraft.
Contracts, in my case, are witten in both English and Chinese and the English version is the master copy. They tend to be followed very rigidly by your employers, if it's not written in its your problem. Medicals are slightly different, to put it mildly, but apart from that the rules and regs are much the same as in the West. There are lots and lots of horror stories about flying in China but most of that is in the past. 100hrs/month is the limit and they tend to hit that because of the shortage. Chinese Aviation has had a massive shakeup in the last decade and its a fascinating country to work in. I love it, I'v been working here for some time.

24th Nov 2006, 03:14
Hi Far East Driver. I am with KA in Hong Kong and am surprised to see that your age is 66. I just wondered if you could tell me the mainland rules regarding age.

24th Nov 2006, 08:08
I'll add on to my last reply. There is no cut-off on age but the decisions are made by CAAC. In my case I had been working there for some time and the company lobbied for me to continue. Grandfather rights maybe? The chances of anybody approaching the age of 60 getting a job with a Chinese aviation company would be zero. Because of ICAO I can only fly nationally which in my job is not a problem. As a guide to the number and nationality of foreign pilots you can look into the CAAC website that gives you a list of applicants in the last six months.
You can't get the right one by typing the address as the home page is in Chinese, you wont find the right page and western computers don't have a Chinese font.
Use the Google search engine and type in pilots.caac.gov.cn. The 1st result will hopefully give you a page with blue borders and a list of contents with a counter on the left hand side. Go to the fourth block and select line 6. This will open up a long list of names of people who are already flying in China and are going through the process of obtaining their Chinese licences after passing the exams. The green names means that their overseas credentials are satisfactory and the licence is being or has been issued. The blacks are pending and the reds are those who have cocked up the paperwork. If you are lucky you may have the version of google that will translate it or you can print it and get the local takeaway to translate the countries for you. I've only ever found it the first time using google.
Don't ask me how to get a job here. I don't know, I came in a different way.

24th Nov 2006, 16:24
The url for the pilot list mentioned above is: http://pilots.caac.gov.cn/fp/foreignpilotlist.asp

29th Nov 2006, 22:48
i find the age issue very interesting. i recently,28 oct 06, sent my cv to cathay. received a letter yesterday saying that i was too old to apply as the retirement age is 55yrs. i will be 54 next year.applied for fe position not captain or fo. is this correct?

30th Nov 2006, 10:29
I don't think that is correct. The dedicated freighter contracts have retirement at 60 (or even later). I'd ring up to see if they have put you in the wrong pile.;)

4th Dec 2006, 20:08
thanks, will do

4th Dec 2006, 21:17
Dear All

would just kindly like to ask for some advice. I currently have a JAA PPL and approximately 160 hours TT. If all the jobs are in china?, would you reccommend me to train in china or stay in UK to do the rest of the course?. I am a British born chinese, so I would like to work in china, but just wondering what would be the best route for the future?. Thanks everyone, would like to hear from you all.