More eager to become pilots

Updated: 2013-09-06 08:33

(China Daily)

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After spending a lot of money and three years on training since 2008, Lou Yang obtained both private and commercial pilot licenses three years ago.

The 23-year-old from Yiwu, Zhejiang province, went from being part of the airport ground crew in Zhengzhou to a well-paid general aviation pilot.

"The yearly income of a pilot is from 200,000 yuan to 300,000 yuan ($32,700 to 49,000), which is attractive, and that is why I wanted this job," he said.

With booming prospects for the general aviation business, more people are eager to join the industry.

An aviation training center based in Beijing's Miyun county that started courses at the beginning of the year has attracted more than 20 students, most aged around 40, said Zhao Xuan, head of Beijing Hua Bintian Star General Aviation Co Ltd, which runs the center.

Trainees can get a private license after six months' training at most, Zhao said.

Zhang Lei, who is responsible for training at Beijing Hua Bintian Star General Aviation Co. Ltd, said, "The market of general aviation in China is bright, which is why we started investing in the pilot training sector."

More eager to become pilots

The general aviation industry is expected to thrive after the country's airspace authority vowed to gradually free up low-altitude airspace by 2015.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China said in December 2012 that in addition to 134 general aviation companies registered with the administration, another 117 are waiting for approval.

According to the administration, the general aviation sector faces a serious shortage of pilots in the next five to 10 years. It is estimated there will be a shortage of 18,000 pilots by the end of 2015, while the number now barely meets demand.

However, becoming a pilot is not easy, said Peng Gang, deputy manager of Lanxiang General Aviation Co Ltd in Zhengzhou, Henan province.

A private flying license requires pilots to have more than 45 hours of flight time, and a professional license needs 110 extra hours, he said.

Besides practical and theory tests, which have to be retaken each year, applicants must pass a strict physical examination. Those over 40 must take it twice a year.

A pilot's income is high enough to attract many applicants, but the high cost of training is also a barrier, said Peng.

Most students aim to get professional licenses, said Li Zhiye with Anyang Aviation School in Henan.

They must first get a private license, at a cost of about 220,000 yuan, and then apply for the 530,000 yuan professional certificate, he said.

Zhang Shusen, a pilot with 39 years of flying experience with Lanxiang General Aviation Co Ltd, said, "Many pilots who fail the annual exams have to be cut from the team."

Lou said even though the annual exams mean he has to do lots of physical exercise and attend flight training every year, his job is still desirable.

"I've decided to stay in this job, even though it means spending much time away from home," he said.

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