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More Planes But Few Pilots Darken the Skies
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More and more Chinese people can afford a private plane, given its moderate 2 million yuan price tag, close to that of a limousine. An insider of aviation industry told the press at the Sixth China Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, which concluded on November 5. It is estimated that about 1,000 private plane are needed every year.

Under the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010), China will gradually open its airspace below 600 meters in five to ten years, creating a huge market for general planes, and private planes in particular, said Wang Yijun, the general manager of marketing of Beijing PanAm International Aviation Academy.

"The DA 40, produced by Diamond Aircraft, is priced at around 2 million yuan, as much as a limousine," Wang added. Based on this equation, Diamond Aircraft is optimistic about China's private plane market.

As the world's second largest general plane manufacturer, Diamond Aircraft has revealed its plan to produce its best selling planes in China. Shandong Bin Ao Aircraft Industries Co., a joint venture set up by Diamond Aircraft in east China's Shandong Province, is going to mass-produce the DA40 since late November. The first producing scale stands at 500 planes, 200 of which will be on sale in European and American markets. Meanwhile, the joint venture will undertake orders from China as well as other Asian and Pacific countries. Diamond Aircraft also plans to produce another plane -- the DA42 -- in Shandong.

At the air show, some plane manufacturers pointed out that a lack of pilots has created a bottleneck in China's civil aviation development. "A shortage of pilots has impeded the exploitation of sub-airlines in China," said Wang Jialin, the sales manager of Bombardier Regional Aircraft (Greater China).

Li Zhiyun, director of Beijing PanAm International Aviation Academy, views the situation of pilot shortage as a business opportunity, mentioning that the current civil aviation market needs 2,500 pilots every year, compared to only 1,500 pilots graduating annually from PanAm and the Civil Aviation Flight University of China (CAFUC).

The shortage has spurred the increase of pilot training schools. Apart from PanAm, there are two to three similar pilot training schools preparing to open.

"The training fee is 600,000 yuan in our school. Upon graduation, trainees will receive the fundamental business flight license," said Wang Yijun. He stated that the training school admits two types of trainees. Usually, airline companies entrust the school to train pilots, which is carried out under an agreement signed by company, school and trainee. They will then leave the school as elementary pilots and receive further training in the company. The other type consists of private pilots. Anybody aged between 18 and 60 can apply for flight training in the school as long as they reach the physical standard set by the CAAC. "Of course, private pilots account for quite a small percentage currently, but I am sure the number will increase rapidly," said Wang confidently.

(Chinanews.com, translated by Huang Shan for China.org.cn, November 9, 2006)

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