NORTHWEST Airlines' crew training division has signed a deal to train pilots of China's largest carrier on wide-body Boeing aircraft at its flight centre in Minneapolis. The recently signed contract is the sixth from the mainland for the American airline's wholly owned subsidiary, Northwest Aerospace Training Corp (NATCO), which claims to have one of the largest facilities in the world. The agreement will see pilots trained on Boeing 767, 747-400 and 747-200 aircraft. It was not known how many pilots would be trained or how much the contract was worth. 'We are particularly pleased Air China chose NATCO for pilot training,' NATCO president and chief executive, Howard DeCastro said. 'We have worked hard to provide a high-quality training environment for China's airlines and believe we have an excellent working relationship with the airlines and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). 'The fact that we were chosen by Air China and the other five major airlines in China confirms we are doing something right.' Late last year, NATCO signed deals with China Southwest, China Eastern, China Northern, Shanghai Airlines and Xiamen Airlines to train about 250 pilots on McDonnell Douglas MD82 and Boeing 757 aircraft. The Xiamen Airlines contract also included training for Boeing 757 flight attendants. Aviation analysts said the CAAC was desperately trying to repair the country's tarnished image as having some of the world's most dangerous carriers, a situation partly attributable to a serious shortfall of skilled pilots. China's airlines, which are growing at a rate of about 20 per cent a year, are having trouble grooming pilots fast enough. The country refuses, however, to employ foreign pilots. 'I can't think of any other country with such a rate of expansion in its aviation industry in the world and which has such a small pool of pilots to choose from,' Mr DeCastro said. NATCO is one of the largest independent airline-affiliated training centres in the world. It provides training for 106 airlines and government agencies, including the United States Air Force, United Airlines, American Airlines and other carriers. It has 27 simulators and training devices at its Minneapolis facility. Northwest, like many other airlines, is trying hard to win a place in the booming China market. It is negotiating affiliation deals with several airlines in preparation for direct flights between the US and the mainland. The airline, which flies from Beijing and Shanghai, via Tokyo, is now expected to be granted an increase in the number of flights that it operates to airports the mainland. This expectation follows negotiations between the US Department of Transportation and Beijing aviation officials.