November 10, 2017

China’s Aviation Growth Fuels U.S. Flight Schools

Claudia Culmone

~ Updated January 11, 2022

The Aviation Industry in China and Asia Pacific is booming, bringing new opportunities to American flight schools. According to Brookfield Aviation International, the region’s commercial airlines are expected to acquire around 35,000 new aircraft over the next 20 years. This need for additional aircraft is a direct result of a strengthening economy that is generating an ongoing, annual 5.7 percent increase in air travel demand. In fact, it is estimated that by 2036, 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) will belong to Asia Pacific.

China expands private airspace

In addition to the increasing economic health of the area, China has announced its intent to open more of its lower airspace to commercial and private aviation. The plan is to give non-military flyers access to airspace below 3,000 meters, or about two miles, but no timeline has been established. Airports in the country are already undertaking expansion projects to prepare for the expected increase; furthermore, China’s state council has pledged to build 500 new airports. The council also announced it will be changing flight plan approval processes to cut down the currently existing delays.

Pilots in high demand

Already, more than 200 applications for general operating licenses have been submitted by new firms in China. As the Aviation Industry continues to expand there, so too does the need for commercial and civil pilots. The challenge is training them. According to Reuters, many people in China are looking at the Aviation Industry as a source of employment, but the 12 established flight schools are overwhelmed by the number of people who want to attend. It is projected that around 500,000 pilots will need to be trained by the year 2035. 

Multiple media outlets report that Chinese commercial airlines are offering hefty salaries with a number of benefits as a way to recruit experienced pilots, but it simply isn’t enough. Therefore, they are putting a portion of their recruiting efforts on Chinese universities and then sending these pilot candidates to the U.S. and elsewhere for flight training. One flight school states that the Chinese airline it works with pays around $100,000 per student for housing and the program itself.

American flight schools see the impact

Air & Space Smithsonian states that around 2,000 Chinese flight student candidates are sent to the United States every year for training. Flight schools in Oregon, Arizona and Illinois are reporting over 50 percent of their students are now from Chinese airlines. The students often have to study English, adjust to the American culture and learn to fly a plane at the same time. It is not an easy workload and it is understandable why some don’t make it, but with the high demand, it is certainly worth the hard work.

The Flight Training Security Program

Before a foreign student can attend flight school in the United States, they must apply and be accepted to the Flight Training Security Program (FTSP). Managed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the program is set up to ensure that thorough, fingerprint-based background checks are completed on all candidates. To learn more about the qualifications for the FTSP program, please visit our website.

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