Pilot in China: A dream job?

With a stagnant aviation industry in Europe and North America, the chances of a foreseeable career progression are getting reduced for many pilots there. Many pilots are looking to the East with the hope to find better working conditions as well as promotion opportunities. Therefore the Chinese market is proving ever more attractive.

The Asia Pacific region is continuing to present the largest projected growth in pilot demand with the current need for more than 180 000 new pilots. The largest amount of pilots – 70 000 – is required in China. The country's aviation sector is growing very rapidly, with forecasts indicating a delivery of up to 5,000 commercial aircraft over the next two decades.

China's airline industry is beset by an alarming shortfall in the annual number of domestic pilot candidates. At current, there are roughly 1,800 foreign pilots working in China. The terms of employment present very lucrative opportunities, with salaries in excess of $220,000 per annum for qualified type-rated captains.

Several Chinese-based airlines have launched extensive recruitment campaigns to get top talented pilots from abroad. So far the success of this programs is still too low, as foreign pilots are not willing to move to China without a good assistance.

The main problem´s are the hurdles in the screening process:

Pilots should be aware that there are significant differences in medical requirements to their home country. Foreign pilots have been refused employment on medical grounds, despite receiving medical endorsement in their home country. There are not only stricter criteria governing specific medical tests, there is also no fluctuation margin for this strict values in China.

The same can be seen at the simulator check ride. Even the cockpit work is based on the teamwork principle; the pilot must show during the check ride his ability to handle the aircraft alone without any difficulties.


M. Baumgartner & Partner OG
Fellergraben 21,
A-3400 Klosterneuburg Austria/Europe