China Aviation Law

Fake Logbooks and Chinese Safety


China Begins Aviation Inquiry After Finding Fake Pilot Résumés

I highlighted this in an earlier post, but a recent discussion has popped up on linked-in about the issue:

I chimed in with my comments. These are my comments from the discussion.

Unfortunately, most of the Chinese pilots have neither the quantity or quality of time to make them safe pilots. The recent crash was flown by a crew who had never been to the airport, at night and in very low IFR. A pilot with experience would have thought twice before continuing down an approach in those conditions. Chinese pilots collectively have not gained sufficient meaningful experience to compete with the safety and standards of western pilots. I worked with many foreign captains who have been brought in to fly for Chinese airlines and their stories, while anecdotal, are quite frightening. First Officers who would sleep in the cockpit, check airmen who would smoke in the cockpit and airlines that prohibit first officers from landing the aircraft, but then promote them to captain without meaningful experience were among the examples I heard.

A few members of the group questioned my conclusions and I provide some insight on my trip back.

My experiences were from speaking with foreign and domestic pilots on the ground in China this summer. I worked for a pilot leasing company in China. My experiences, while I admit are anecdotal, were far from unsubstantiated. Specifically, SZA has a policy that prohibits Chinese first officers from landing A320 aircraft. I'd prefer not to name the specific airlines for the other two anecdotes, but they are airlines in the Hainan Group. I would agree that there are some talented Chinese captains in China. But, my experience is that the airlines are growing much too quickly and subsequently promoting first officers with very little time in the cockpit. In the Yichun crash, we have a captain who is doing his first flight into the airport. This was at night, in low ifr, and to a very short runway. Due to safety concerns, the other airline (China Southern) that flew into Yichun, decided it would not make night flights into this airport. This crash has all the indications of CFIT and dropping below the published minimums on an approach. In my opinion, those mistakes are indicative of a pilot with little experience/decision skills, and an organizational culture that prioritizes completing the flight (get-there-itis) over safety. As for the report in hand, if a FAA certified pilot had been found to falsify her flight record, she would immediately lose her employment and the FAA would revoke her license. (This was the case for an RJ pilot in the US a few years ago who falsified a weight and balance report). In CAAC case, we not a few pilots, but hundreds of Chinese pilots, all ex-military, falsifying their record and suffering no legal or professional ramifications. If the CAAC is this lenient with pilots, I fear for their relationship with aircraft manufacturing, maintenance and airline regulation. That all said - I believe we will see most of the problems in the privately held airlines like Henan (Kunpeng) and many of the Shanghai HQ'd airlines. Like the majors in the US, the State-owned airlines have the advantage of getting the most talented pilots and retaining them.

Posted by Casey DuBose

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