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CHINA. Fear and Punishment.

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CHINA. Fear and Punishment.

Old 17th Oct 2013, 19:05
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Exclamation CHINA. Fear and Punishment.

I am a foreign Captain working in China.

I would like to start a serious debate about what I believe is a big elephant(panda?) in the room when it comes to aviation safety today: China. As the biggest driver of growth in our industry for the foreseeable future I think it a good idea we all forearm ourselves with their attitude towards the modern safety culture.
I do this in the hope that some pilots in the international safety community can raise it at the highest level so we don't see a sizeable chunk of our industry operate in a shadow system built around fear, paying lip service to international standards.

This parallel (or counter?)culture has been present for years and it has far reaching consequences as I'll explain.
The list of 'errors' that attract punishment are categorised by two lists: 'general' and 'serious'. This list is published by the CAAC.

General errors are worth an RMB fine, unpaid suspension, investigation, retraining and for foreigners loss of bonus equivalent to 1200usd/6000usd/12000usd+ (1st/2nd/3rd event)
There are almost a hundred reasons listed (MANY trivial) but here are some examples:
-Forgetting to collect a Jeppesen manual or any other documents.
-Not doing 30mins of online preparation on the day off before flight.
-Taxiing at over 10kts in a turn.
-ROD over 1200fpm below 1000ft regardless of weather.
-Go Arounds due to unstable approach or crew error.
-Arguing with ATC

Serious errors are punished using variously demotion, loss of TRI/TRE status and pay, unpaid suspension, retraining, larger RMB fine, and for foreigners 12000usd bonus loss immediately.

Again here is a very brief list:
-Heavy landing
-Altitude bust
-RTO due to any error
-Any amber/red/ECAM warning caused by crew
-Landing overweight

Some of the seemingly insignificant items that attract major fines from the CAAC and operators both that are playing havoc on the line daily and will have long term repercussions:
-Heavy landings -1.8G Company/General error and 2.0G CAAC/Serious error- forget the manufacturer definitions. The QAR is used as the official measure and it applies to both crew members regardless of PF. I'll come back to this.
-Lightning Strikes. Level of punishment depends on if there is damage.
-Go Arounds (due to unstable approaches). Level of punishment depends on event.
-ATC controller fear (and fear of ATC controllers)

Pilots find themselves receiving clearances in metres and QFE from ATC with poor English; then must convert it to feet and QNH altitude and set it correctly. At jeopardy for an incorrect altitude is an RMB fine equivalent to a few hundred dollars, 12000 USD safety bonus, end of contract bonuses and around a month's pay for the suspension and retraining. Overall around 30-50k is on the line each and every flight even for relatively inconsequential events(like a 2G landing).

This culture of punishment and fear is not only applied to pilots. It applies across the board. ATC, Cabin Crew, Engineers, Meteorologists, Police, Medical Doctors, Managers; everyone.
This is why in China On whim ATC will close airports, doctors fail your medical, police do nothing and managers are nowhere to be seen.


Overall as one could expect the entire punishment culture has overruled any possibility of cultivating a reporting culture. Any time a safety report is made somebody, somewhere will be severely punished for it, whether it be the reporting pilot or the reported body. Also pilot reports will regularly disappear. I would love to see the ICAO feedback on SMS and Just Culture in China!

Heavy Landings fine:
-Pilots are doing nothing remotely close to the correct landing technique. They land long, never decrab, ignore centreline and speed, caring only about the touchdown QAR report. Vacating the runway all pilots stare at groundspeed to exit at exactly 9kts everyone else be damned.
-Co pilots are being refused landings by almost all captains. Training captains being paid to teach landing are pocketing the training pay, but not allowing the FO to handle. Every landing is full jeopardy. Dual input is an accepted technique and regularly practised as no fine applies. Instructors are taught how to avoid inputs appearing on QAR. Time to command is as little as 3 years.

Lightning strikes
-Pilots are deviating 100 miles around innocent rain clouds.
-knock on effect is serious ground delays as the already heavily restricted airspace needs wider separation.
Birdstrikes have no associated fine, yet nevertheless go unreported (to ATC, CAAC, maintenance and the company)

Go Arounds
-this one is obvious. Go Arounds are not performed when they should be, with sometimes catastrophic consequences.

ATC being fined, impact on procedures and airport design.
-ATC have huge separation at all stages of flight, including for example 10+ miles on final, 40nm em route, regardless of level and 3000ft separation at least regardless of RVSM or airspace. Taxi and pushback procedures regimented, inflexible, and almost no conditional clearances.
-Slightly misty? Airport closed. TS nearby? Airport closed. No discretion.
-With blame for mistakes predetermined to be on the pilot, airport design is atrocious. Painted taxi lines with lights at night not aligned with them, that if followed would result in aircraft damage and runway hold points ill defined and poorly lit etc..

I deem Chinese aviation to be entirely dysfunctional in the extreme. The entire responsibility for errors and events are being placed in the individual employees lap. This places professionalism far below basic individual ass-covering in people's priorities.

A million strict, punishable, and yet directly contradictory rules set by various managers covering their own asses exist at every level. Each level adds a margin also. Most rules are then ignored as it is impossible to comply with them all. Only those linked to punishments are followed. Practically this means aircraft limitations and SOPs disregarded. Only QAR limits followed.
This QAR monitoring is only getting worse. The CAAC is getting direct and centralised access from next year, with western data suppliers delighted to sell them QAR data accessible on managers smartphones etc...

The ultimate effect of this culture of blame and recrimination on the individual is of course criminal responsibility. This will apply I'm certain not only to those working in China, but also those operating into here. With economic crimes attracting the death penalty I fear for anyone having any accident resulting in a fatality.

It would also be neglecting not to mention that many airlines have fuel bonuses for pilots. This is a direct payment to pilots for saving fuel. As you can imagine this has some very interesting results as pilots act unprofessionally chasing this payment whilst avoiding fines.
In this pursuit you can see pilots ignoring Atc speed control, shutting down engines during at touchdown, running APUs during climb, using MCT extensively, reducing fuel below flight plan, etc etc.

China has complete disregard and disinterest in international standards of safety. Right now the Chinese aviation leadership don't even bother going to any safety seminars, and when they do they send the secretary or it's for a shopping jolly..


I would like to keep this a serious discussion with the help of the mods, and I am posting this in rumours and news to get a higher viewership, but as we all know this is PPRuNe..

I for one don't like flying with an anvil over my head, and don't want this trend to spread any further into my future non-China jobs.
How can we get the wider international safety community to step in and get more vocal?

TL;DR China is overseeing an elaborate and very sophisticated punishment based 'safety' culture.
EverythingWeMake is offline  
Old 17th Oct 2013, 19:20
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I would like to keep this a serious discussion with the help of the mods, and I am posting this in rumours and news to get a higher viewership, but as we all know this is PPRuNe..
Except that, this is neither. We have a forum called Terms & Endearment that deals with terms and conditions.....so voilą!
Jetdriver is offline  
Old 17th Oct 2013, 19:25
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Im quite enjoying my chinese airline,thank you very much.
de facto is offline  
Old 17th Oct 2013, 21:53
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Having done some work with the Chinese, I find those allegations quite believable.

This needs to be taken to the very highest levels in ICAO and given maximum exposure by whatever means. Safety auditing companies who work for mining companies, TV current affairs programs, consumer websites etc should be lobbied. Of course how you do that without losing your job (or going to jail in China!) is the problem......

For the benefit of non-aviation, non-technical people, some explanatory material would be necessary, because the uninitiated would probably think taxying at 9 knots a fair thing and would not understand the dangers of attempting to make every landing a greaser regardless of runway conditions. Or the effect a punitive culture has on safety reporting. Or the hazards of concealing errors rather than simply correcting them as they occur and getting on with life.
Mach E Avelli is offline  
Old 18th Oct 2013, 01:02
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Originally Posted by EverythingWeMake View Post
Pilots find themselves receiving clearances in metres and QFE from ATC with poor English; then must convert it to feet and QNH altitude and set it correctly.
I have been to several airports in China and did not get a QFE altimeter setting. Can you tell me where you have gotten this.

JammedStab is offline  
Old 18th Oct 2013, 01:21
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Nanning - QFE and meters
volare_737 is offline  
Old 18th Oct 2013, 03:04
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In China its a lottery - you can be damned from day one
as an expat or you'll enjoy a dream ride. I have known
blokes who've never been fined or punished for minor
busts or any other trivial matter because they are "liked"
and this goes for KAL too.

Nope never worked for any Chinese carrier. And never will
either - I wouldn't last 10mins trying to put up with all that
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Old 18th Oct 2013, 04:17
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Air China fuel bonus is based on the amount of extra fuel you have in the tanks on arrival beyond the flight plan estimate.


They simply load an extra 1500KG on departure, over burn about 500KG on a 10 hour sector carrying the extra fuel, then land at destination with 1000KG over plan and hey presto, you get a fuel bonus.

Its scary that they have a fuel saving bonus that ACTUALLY burns MORE fuel and they dont get it!!!!
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Old 18th Oct 2013, 08:11
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Originally Posted by volare_737 View Post
Nanning - QFE and meters
The Jeppesen chart does say QNH available on request. Hopefully they give you proper altitudes if QNH is requested.

Last edited by JammedStab; 18th Oct 2013 at 08:12.
JammedStab is offline  
Old 18th Oct 2013, 09:20
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You are right, but they still clear you to an altitude in meters on QFE. Nothing serious, just more room for error. Add to that the language, some very inexperienced FO's, and sometimes bad weather and you will have to concentrate just a little harder. Thats why you get paid the big dollars !!!!
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Old 19th Oct 2013, 09:49
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Originally Posted by EverythingWeMake
Pilots find themselves receiving clearances in metres and QFE from ATC with poor English; then must convert it to feet and QNH altitude and set it correctly.
Nanning is indeed using QFE(QNH on request).
First if you fly to China you should be familiar with meters just like you would flying in Russia.You get conversion charts dont you?
If you fly an aircraft such as the 737 ,you arent allowed to fly in QFE unless your FMC is equipped.
So they give you a qfe,you set the 'altitude' just as you would in qnh since you reference baro is in QFE.
No brainer.
Now you need to be familiar with QFE(supp procedure),meters conversion charts if you fly to such airport...its called preparation and thats you are paid for,wouldnt you say?
It s no brainer really..
de facto is offline  
Old 19th Oct 2013, 10:48
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De Facto,
You are missing the point that is being made here.
He is not asking for QFE flight tips but highlighting a culture difference to pilots that may be deciding to choose a career in China.
The blame and penalty culture that dwells in Chinese life, where, being able to blame someone else means your little empire is secure.
I found his post very interesting and relevant, others may find a slightly different experience but with more information available comes a wiser decision on what is an important step in your life.
waffler is offline  
Old 19th Oct 2013, 11:19
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They will learn - after they crash and burn. Nothing new.
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Old 19th Oct 2013, 12:57
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None of this surprises me in the least, considering the mentality we are dealing with here.

Why the obsession of not having older pilots who are type rated and experienced on type to fill some of the positions? Their experience would be helpful, therefore contributing to safety and economically also with reduced training costs.

Would the reasoning be, they wrongly think the older people will keel over in the seat? Maybe they are so scared of this because the F/o's maybe incapable of landing the thing should this happen. The F/o maybe incapable of getting the aircraft on the ground in one piece because they have never had any practice. Are they allowed to do landings?

Oh I like that fuel bonus that was mentioned above!
Don_Apron is offline  
Old 19th Oct 2013, 13:58
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Older western pilot might give younger Chinese F/O bad ideas .
Toruk Macto is offline  
Old 19th Oct 2013, 15:18
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The blame and penalty culture that dwells in Chinese life, where, being able to blame someone else means your little empire is secure.
I have worked many years and never been blamed or punished,(including go arounds)quite the opposit...,

You are right i missed the point,I wouldnt have thought that a Captain should me WARNED about ohhh the dangers of meters,rare qfe ops and borderline english...

Last edited by de facto; 19th Oct 2013 at 15:41.
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Old 19th Oct 2013, 17:53
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An excellent original post , which completely nails what's happening Aviation Safety wise right now in China.

I wonder what the SkyTeam and Star Alliance safety audit teams make of their Chinese colleagues? No doubt they've had the wool pulled over their eyes!

IATA / ICAO etc and those making $millions from Chinese Airlines need to do their job and protect the traveling public.

Or will it be the insurance companies who will act first?
StandbyFlowControl is offline  
Old 19th Oct 2013, 20:02
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Very interesting original post from EverythingWeMake, in some ways quite a scary eye opener to me, thanks for the insight. It defiantly does not sound to be a model to emulate.
Alloy is offline  
Old 20th Oct 2013, 01:22
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Must be full of third world country pilots in here,funnily enough those who complain the most are normally those who last the longest
On a more serious note,China is not for everyone,a bit of a thick skin to endure the culture difference but I can tell you that safety wise my airline(a chinese one) has no expense when it comes to safety.
They dont always get to the final result in the most efficient or same way than other states Airlines may but they eventually get there.
They very quickly weed off cowboy mentalities though and there are a few that came through the initial screening,but they normally dont last long

Last edited by de facto; 20th Oct 2013 at 01:26.
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Old 20th Oct 2013, 03:09
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Well if they have that much money to throw around, as regards to training e.g., then they can afford to pay you a higher salary. Or is initial training the same financial outlay as recurrent training??

The recruiting adverts may look attractive at first glance but crews are still paid less, in real terms, than crews were say 30 years ago.
Don_Apron is offline  

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