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Dreams soar at Shaanxi flying club
By Ma Lie (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-12-19 07:48

XI'AN: The country's first private flying club here has received more than 100 applications from aspiring professional pilots as well as the affluent, hoping to buy their own planes, the club's officials said yesterday.

"More than 100 applicants, some who want to become professional pilots and some who want to own private planes, have approached the club for training," Li Zhi, deputy general manager of Xi'an Zhongfei Flight Club, said.

Last month, 11 trainees of the club passed the State flight examination and received their private flying licenses, Li said.

"We trained them at the club for 10 months, and now all of them have been employed in various airlines across the country," he said.

As of now, about 16,000 people in the country hold private flying licenses.

Cui Longzhou, 22, a resident of Xi'an, who successfully cleared the State examination after training at the club, said: "Flying has been my dream ever since I can remember. The Xi'an club gave me a chance to realize my dream."

He said flying airplanes was a high-tech skill job and the training had ensured him a secure future.

Wang Chao, another pass-out from the club who got his flying license, helped manufacture and repair planes before he dreamed of flying one.

"I used to help build and fix planes every day. I always wondered what it would be like to fly one. Now, I am happy I can," he said.

Wang's 10-month training at the Xi'an flying club cost 140,000 yuan ($20,000), which his parents paid.

"My parents supported me throughout to help me achieve my dream," he said.

"Now that I've passed the exam and got a job, I can pay them back," he said.

Anyone between the ages of 16 and 60, with flawless eyesight of 1.0 or more, and without hearing difficulties, heart problems or high blood pressure can enroll at the flying club, Li said.

"Aspiring pilots are eligible for flying licenses after 40 hours of theoretical training and 40 hours of practical flying time, after which they must pass the examinations held by China's General Administration of Civil Aviation," Li said.

The flying club was founded in 1959, and is the sole flight test institution in the country for national-level evaluation of military and civil aircraft.

The number of aircraft owned by companies and individuals in the country has increased by 10 percent annually, official statistics show.

And in the next 10 years, there will be a need for more than 1,000 private planes in the market.

Qiao Xinshan, deputy director of the northwest China civil aviation administration bureau, said they will gradually open the airspace below 600 m in the next five to 10 years.

"There is a need for at least 2,000 pilots every year. However, the China Civil Aviation Flight College, the only national pilot training organization in the country, provides only 1,000 pilots annually," Qiao said.

Besides, there is a huge market for private pilot training due to the increasing number of Chinese multimillionaires, who want to buy their own planes, he said.

Luo Xiaoping, 43, a multimillionaire businessman in Xianyang bought his own plane in 2004 "just for fun".

"I have a group of friends spread across the country who love flying just as much as I do. We all fly together at least once a month," he said.

(China Daily 12/19/2008 page5)