Air China has signed an agreement that could see it becoming one of the largest airline training providers in the world.

The Chinese flag carrier has signed a framework agreement with authorities in Beijing's Shunyi district to build a training centre that will eventually house 30 full-flight simulators as well as other pilot and cabin-crew training equipment.

The framework agreement "is a letter of intent and final details still need to be worked out", says Air China, adding "there is no specific timetable" for building the new training centre. Shunyi district is near Beijing's airport, where the airline's current simulator centre is located.

Air China says its existing centre is "not that big" and there have been occasions when the carrier has had to send pilots to other simulator centres in China or overseas. The airline wants a much larger training centre to support future growth.

"We are doing it because we have a plan to expand our fleet, so we need to have more pilots and cabin crew," says Air China, adding it has to increase its training capacity to ensure "we won't have a shortage of trained staff".

According to Flight's ACAS database the airline has 187 aircraft in service and another 81 on order, including Airbus A320-family aircraft, A330s and Boeing 787-8s. Air China also has equity stakes in other airlines such as Cathay Pacific Airways, Shenzhen Airlines and Shandong Airlines.

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Source: Flight International