By Leithen Francis in Singapore

Half of new recruits' registrations in China are from Brazil, Singapore or the USA

Chinese aviation authorities have revealed the number of foreign commercial pilots registering in the country. The statistics reveal a huge increase, with a significant proportion coming from Brazil, Singapore and the USA.

Since 14 March the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has registered 116 foreign pilots with another 44 in the process of being registered, according to statistics posted on the CAAC website.

The pilots come from 25 countries, with the most prevalent source Brazil providing 38 pilots (24%), followed by the USA with 32 pilots (20%) and Singapore with 16 pilots (10%), it says.

All the Singaporean pilots except one are registered with the CAAC's eastern branch headquartered in Shanghai. Most of these were registered in quick succession in late May and early June, about the time that Great Wall Airlines - Singapore Airlines' Shanghai-based cargo joint venture - was launching operations.

Commercial director Foo Sootin says all of Great Wall's pilots are foreign nationals. "We are not allowed to recruit locally. We are not allowed to hijack other Chinese airlines' pilot workforce because of the pilot shortage in China," he says.

While Great Wall's launch on 1 June might explain why there are suddenly so many Singaporean pilots in China, the concentration of Brazilians might be connected to Brazilian manufacturer Embraer, whose aircraft are in service with China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Sichuan Airlines. The aircraft manufacturer has been known to provide foreign pilots to airlines new to Embraer.

In July 2005 the CAAC's flight standards department said the total number of foreign pilots working in China was between 70 and 80 even though 116 were registered between 14 March and 22 July.

Last year the CAAC standardised and updated regulations to help local carriers wishing to employ foreign aircrew. This was done in response to a severe shortage of pilots in China caused by a rapid increase in the country's commercial aircraft fleet.

Source: Flight International