PLAGUED by frequent air piracy and a poor safety record last year, China's aviation authorities have launched a major effort to improve safety standards and upgrade air services, according to its new aviation head. The director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), Chen Guangyi, said a thorough investigation of workers' knowledge of standards began on Saturday and would continue until February 6. The need to tighten management was urgent, the official said in a China News Service despatch. He said aviation staff should strengthen their sense of aviation safety, and improve management, training and examinations to strive for a ''safe, normal and no-delay'' service. Mr Chen indicated that the revamp would help introduce many changes to the aviation system. The national flag-carrier has been plagued by a record tally of hijacking incidents, air disasters and poor service. The China News Service said the aviation leadership had identified safety as its paramount task this year. Mr Chen called on cadres to address three issues which were at the centre of public criticism; air service during the Lunar New Year, general service and safety. All aviation staff should do their best to attain noticeable results in the next few weeks, he said. The CAAC head singled out five areas in which dramatic improvement should be made immediately. Catering should be improved to ensure passengers' meals were up to standard, prompt and accurate information on flight schedules should be provided to passengers, and accommodation and meals for passengers affected by any ''abnormal'' situation such as cancellation or rescheduling of flights should be arranged appropriately. Also, Mr Chen said, VIPs should be given priority and courtesy services, and crew members should carry name tags and offer a better quality service to passengers. Crew members would face disciplinary action or dismissal if passenger complaints against them were found to be justified. Mr Chen said aviation authorities were drafting safety regulations and codes of conduct for staff. He said a full-scale reform of the aviation system would follow the management changes of the next few weeks.