China Faces Pilot Training Gap

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The 2011 China Airline Pilot Training Summit was held in Shanghai last Wednesday to address a looming pilot shortage. There are about 12,000 airline pilots in China. Up to 18,000 more are needed by 2015. The seven Chinese flight schools cannot meet such demand. The interim solution of sending students to train overseas is far from being ideal, according to airline representatives. The country's fast-growing general aviation sector, which claimed to have needed 15,000 pilots in 2011 alone, further escalates the shortage issue. Summit participants recognized that, rather than putting 250-hour graduates in airliners' right seats, it is a much better practice to have a pyramid hierarchy, where a large pilot population engages in Part 91 operations and proportionally moves up to careers in on-demand and air carrier services.

On top of the dire need for professional pilots, the public's strong interest in private flying also holds clear promise for the pilot training business. The comments made by airline and GA representatives uniformly point to the need of developing the flight training industry in China, especially the primary training sector. This demand is met by western interest. Flight Safety International was reportedly among the participants of the Summit. John and Martha King's earlier visit to China also points to potential opportunities to be explored.