China to raise mandatory retirement age for pilots

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) plans to raise the mandatory retirement age for pilots from the current 60 as part of a strategy to ease the shortage faced by Chinese airlines. The agency has yet to arrive at a decision on the exact age, but it plans to implement the change in two or three years.

CAAC official Liu Shen told AIN that the shortage could get more acute as airlines acquire more aircraft and that hiring foreign pilots has become more difficult over the past five years as airlines around the world face a similar situation.

«Many airlines in the region have also raised the retirement age, salary and other benefits for their pilots to stay,» Liu noted.

Official estimates forecast a need for about 2,800 to 3,000 pilots annually over the next three years. The 12 flying schools across China can produce only between 1,250 and 1,300 a year.

Local airlines increasingly send their cadet pilots to the US, Europe or Australia for training due to the limited capacity at local schools. Cadets must undergo a minimum 80-hour English course before they start training. Some schools require six months of coursework.

Chinese carriers attract experienced foreign pilots with retention bonuses and big salary packages ranging from $240,000 to $310,000 a year for a captain, depending on his or her experience and aircraft type rating.

Airlines prefer hiring pilots with a current type rating in the interest of reducing training costs. Pilots from as far afield as Australia, the US, Latin America, Singapore and South Korea fly under contracts that usually run for three years with provisions for extension.

South Korea ranks as the biggest source for Chinese airlines due to the geographical location and cultural proximity. The trend has resulted in carriers like Korean Air and Asiana Airlines recruiting experienced pilots from other countries to fill their own slots.

A Flightglobal report from Singapore adds: China Southern Airlines and its subsidiaries will take the 28 aircraft that it is scheduled to receive from 1 July to 31 December, from its leasing arm CSA International.

Under the deal, China Southern will take the 28 Airbus and Boeing jets from CSA International through sale-and-leaseback agreements…

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