Flight group wants locally trained professionals as young people's interest grows through TV show and astronaut's visit A plan to set up an aviation academy in Hong Kong has gathered momentum. The growing interest in flying is attributed to the popularity of the TV soap opera Triumph in the Skies and the visit by China's first astronaut. The academy would turn out a range of aviation professionals, including pilots for Hong Kong's flag carrier Cathay Pacific, which now relies on pilots from overseas. Hogan Loh, a member of the Provisional Aviation Development Council which comprises pilots, volunteers and academics, said the plan was initiated to produce more locally trained aviation professionals and raise public awareness of the industry. The council is awaiting government approval of its plan. Mr Loh said it hoped to be able to set up the school in one or two years, preferably at or near the old Kai Tak airport site. Triumph in the Skies, a TVB Jade series set around pilots and cabin crew, is sponsored by Cathay Pacific. A company spokeswoman said more students had expressed interest in becoming pilots or cabin staff during visits to the airline company since the TV programme was screened in October. 'One of the objectives of putting on Triumph in the Skies is to let young people know that their career choices are not limited to becoming lawyers, doctors and accountants,' she said. Mr Loh, also the honorary secretary of the Hong Kong Air Cadet Corps, a voluntary group that promotes aviation to the public, said: 'Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa has often said that Hong Kong should be developed into the Asian aviation hub. 'We have the best airport in the world but most of the pilots are from overseas and usually the only things that the public know about aviation are pilots and cabin crews. 'Both the hardware and software to develop the aviation industry are lacking. The government definitely needs to play a bigger role in this.' The self-financed academy would not only train pilots and cabin crew but also professionals in other areas, such as aviation law, management and insurance, he said. Singapore, Australia and the US all have their own aviation schools. Democrat legislator Andrew Cheng Kar-foo welcomed the plan. He also urged the government to put more effort into cultivating youngsters' interest in the subject. Hong Kong Air Cadet Corps spokeswoman Floria Fung Sze-kei noted a significant increase in the number of membership applications since November, from about four a week to four a day. She added that most of the applicants were in their 20s. Ms Fung said the enthusiastic response could be partly attributed to the popularity of Triumph in the Skies. 'Teenagers and young adults may consider joining the Air Cadet Corps, which offers flying experience and relevant training, as the first step towards realising their aviation dream,' she said. The recent visit of Colonel Yang Liwei, China's first astronaut, and the publicity work of the group had also created an impact, she said. To further increase public awareness of the industry, the Air Cadet Corps, the government and other aviation bodies will jointly organise Hong Kong Aviation Day 2003 next weekend at the Kai Tak site.