200 pilots lied about credentials in past 2 years

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 September, 2010, 12:00am

More than 200 pilots have exaggerated or lied about their experience in the past two years, mainland aviation authorities said.

Pilots' credentials will be a major focus amid increasing air safety concerns after a string of accidents.

Anonymous officials with the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC) told an internal meeting on August 26 that during an investigation in 2008 and last year, they also found at least half the pilots in question were working for Shenzhen Airlines, China Business News reported yesterday. Shenzhen Airlines owns Henan Airlines, the carrier responsible for the fatal crash two weeks ago that cost 42 lives.

China Business News quoted a senior manager of a private airline as saying pilots who faked credentials had moved on to different employers too often and had coloured their r?sum?s or were former military pilots, who mainly had experience flying small military planes and might not be qualified to fly civil aircraft.

The CAAC admitted early last year that some pilots of Shenzhen Airlines had faked their flying history, but did not give any figures or other details. The administration's media department could not be reached for comment yesterday.

China Business News said that according to the administration's instruction, this round of investigations would focus on the qualifications of crew, especially captains, and flight instructors.

Furthermore, the credentials of air traffic control officers and the technicians providing ground support would also be investigated, and those unqualified would be asked to upgrade their training, be demoted or be transferred out of key positions.

All regional aviation administrations were asked to finish their detailed reports based on the investigation of the airlines by Wednesday next week. The overall capabilities of the airlines, such as flying complex routes, and small and medium-sized airports would also be examined, the report said.

CAAC chief Li Jiaxiang told aviation officials at the August 26 meeting that the 40-year-old pilot of the Henan Airlines' aircraft that crashed in Yichun, Heilongjiang, would be held responsible for the accident because he had made a 'very basic mistake', China Business reported last week.

The Brazilian-built Embraer E-190 landed 1,200 metres short of the runway at Lindu Airport in poor visibility on August 24.

The report said aviation officials at the internal meeting questioned the skill and credentials of the pilot, who was a military pilot on J-8 fighter jets before becoming a civilian pilot seven years ago.

Professor Wang Yonggang, dean of Civil Aviation University of China's School of Safety Science and Engineering, said a major cause of pilots' falsified credentials was the pilot shortage that had plagued mainland aviation for years.

'Of course such pilots [with false qualifications] will severely affect aviation safety,' Wang said, adding that amid the industry's rapid growth in the past decade, all airlines in need of pilots had recruited all they could find, no matter whether they were newly graduated from flying schools or veteran pilots.

According to the latest report on the CAAC's website, there were 11,509 pilots on the mainland at the end of 2007 and 1,134 aircraft, nearly 95 per cent of which were passenger carriers.