BEIJING - The People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force has launched a program to train talented high school students as pilots, military sources said on Monday.
The Air Force had begun a special class in Baoding No 1 High School, in Hebei province, to train selected students, said Wu Mou, director of the Air Force's bureau responsible for pilot recruitment.
Twenty-four students from the first grade at the senior high school, will take special physical trainings to improve their flexibility, coordination and balance.
They will also take aviation education programs along with the standard curriculum and operate paramotors and gliders in aviation clubs to gain flying experience.
The students were selected from 350 candidates from 59 high schools in the province after a series of physical and psychological exams.
To become a member of the class, a candidate had to meet strict requirements for height (162cm to 175cm), weight (45kg to 48kg), have a an excellent sense of three-dimensional space and eyesight, according to a regulation issued by the Air Force.
The qualified students should have no criminal record and no girlfriends, according to the regulation.
The PLA Air Force recruits about 1,000 pilot trainees each year mainly from graduates of high schools, colleges and universities. Those graduates from the Air Force's special class need to pass the national college entrance examination before being recruited.
The PLA has trained students with outstanding physical and psychological capabilities at the last year of senior high school since 1998. The class in Baoding No. 1 High School is the first for the Air Force to put the training in an earlier phase.
Wu said the Air Force planned to set up 10 more special classes at the first year of senior high schools around the country by 2012.
The PLA Air Force planned to recruit about 1,100 pilot trainees this year from China's high school and college graduates.
The Air Force recruitment offices around the country received about 7,000 more applications than last year with greater attention and enthusiasts among Chinese youth thanks to the high-profile demonstration of the air shows on the National Day parade and a series of celebrations to mark the Air Force's 60th founding anniversary in 2009.
On October 1 last year, 151 military aircraft, mainly from the PLA Air Force, showcased the largest air fleet in the history of National Day parade of the People's Republic of China.
The Spring Festival Evening Gala for the Chinese lunar new year last month starred the 16 female fighter pilots who flew their jets on the National Day parade.
"To ensure the Air Force selects the best candidates among increasing applicants eager to fly a fighter jet one day, we will introduce harder scrutiny methods, especially in the psychological examinations," Wu said.