Acute pilot shortage, especially women, hits China’s aviation industry

China 24

Acute pilot shortage, especially women, hits China’s aviation industry

Passenger planes are having trouble filling their cockpits around the world, including in China.

As CGTN’s Frances Kuo reports, the shortage is especially critical among female pilots.

Thousands of meters up in the air, Han Siyuan is reaching new heights of her own.

Captain Han flies for Chinese airline, Spring Airlines. She’s one of only six female pilots in the company.

“I don’t think we should stereotype. I really don’t like it when people add the word ‘female’ or ‘male’ in front of the ‘pilot,” said Han.  “We get the same pay for the same job, we do the same job, so we should be judged by our skills and qualifications, not our gender.”

But the industry doesn’t always reflect that.

The number of female pilots in China hovers at just over one percent, below even the global average of about five percent.

Pilots and aviation experts point to obstacles like male-focused hiring practices and social perceptions.

“Society as a whole generally approves of both men and women filling the role of an airplane pilot,” said Chen Jingxian, Vice-President of the female branch of the China Airplane Pilots Association, established just this year.  “Everyone can do this job very well.”

She’s pushing for more opportunities for female pilots, particularly at this critical time.

According to the International Air Transport Association, China is expected to become the world’s largest air travel market by 2022.

With this demand, American aircraft maker Boeing says China will need 110,000 new pilots through 2035.

But that may be a challenge: there are only about a dozen accredited flight schools in China.

“There still aren’t enough training places for all those who want to become pilots,” said Li Peiqi, a teacher at the College of Aeronautic Transportation.  “In the future the number will grow and I believe the university will have the capability to train more students.”

One option is recruiting pilots from abroad by offering them high salaries.

But the rest of the world is suffering from a pilot shortage too.

So, for her part, Captain Han hopes more women will follow in her path and set their own mark in the skies.

Mark Weiss discusses China’s pilot shortage