Nation to be short of 2,000 pilots by 2010
The world's second-largest air travel market will suffer a shortfall of at least 2,000 pilots by 2010 as the growth in air traffic outstrips the nation's ability to train pilots, a senior civil aviation regulator said.
'By the end of the 11th five-year development plan, we will need an additional 9,000 pilots,' said Gao Hongfeng, vice-minister of the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC), yesterday during a real-time Internet interview organised by the Xinhua News Agency. 'But, we are only capable of training about 7,000 pilots, leaving a deficit of more than 2,000.'
The regulator allows privately owned companies to offer pilot-training programmes as another way to fill the manpower shortage.
CAAC has adopted austerity measures, such as curbing daily flights to the busy airports of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Kunming.
However, Beijing Capital International Airport is undergoing expansion to add a third runway, which will increase daily flights to between 1,400 and 1,500 during the Olympic Games, up from 1,000 next March when the project is completed.
The skies are so crowded that regulators have instituted safety measures, such as curbing flights and suspending new application for airlines until 2010.
'We are not against the private sector tapping the airline industry,' Mr Gao said. 'We just want to slow down a little.'
Since 2004, 39 private enterprises have applied to set up airlines, of which 17 have been approved and are in operation. The remaining 22 are either pending approval or are about to begin operations. Mr Gao said those 22 were exempt from the rules limiting new applications.
'We are concerned about whether the management quality of the airlines and the infrastructure can meet [safety requirements],' he said. 'Our insistence on safety first has been stressed every day and every hour.'
Mainland carriers have not had an accident fatality for more than 8.6 million flying hours, the longest safety record in the nation's aviation history that dates back to November 2004 when more than 60 people died in a crash in Baotou, Inner Mongolia.
Separately, Mr Gao said, he had yet to receive any formal application for an airline merger.
'The country has such a large population and such a huge geographical spread. I don't think it's practical to let just one or two airlines provide the service,' he said. 'The market should consist of big, medium and small airlines to offer a comprehensive network.'