Up, up and away

Updated: 2012-05-05 07:31

By Zhang Yue (China Daily)

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Up, up and away

A student tries her hand at a flight simulator at Beijing No 57 Middle School on Friday. [Photo/China Daily]

Fifteen-year-old Wei Jiakun slides into the pilot's seat, fastens his seat belt and presses the start button.

All the panel lights flash on, the engine starts roaring and he feels his seat shaking.

As the Beijing high school student tightly and carefully pulls up the controls, he sees the airplane's nose lift on the screen.

Time for takeoff.

Wei, from Beijing No 57 Middle School, is trying his hand in the school's flight simulator, which the school has opened to its students since 2004.

He has been learning to fly in this simulator for more than one semester.

"If everything goes well, I will be able to join the special training class in my senior high school," said the student, who is now in his final year of junior high school.

The Beijing municipal commission of education recently launched the special program in a few high schools, giving comprehensive training for interested and qualified senior high school students to become pilots.

Wei's school and the High School Affiliated to Beihang University are the first two schools to run the class starting this year.

It includes not only basic training in a simulator, but also comprehensive training on aeronautical theory, physical health and flight training on a real plane at the city's two air bases.

Another high school, Beijing No 12 High School, will start the class in 2013.

"China has an increasing demand for young pilots every year," said Ke Yubao, deputy secretary-general of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of China.

"Many students, especially boys, are very passionate about becoming a pilot. Yet it is usually when they go through examinations after high school that they discover they are not qualified."

Since 2004, the association has run a flight training class with Beijing No 57 Middle School.

"Through the class, we noticed many very brilliant students with amazing potential to become pilots," Ke said. "But many of them did not get on the path because of myopia."

They also have to score high in English in the National College Entrance Examination, as English is the international language of aviation.

"We feel it's a big pity for talented kids, especially when our country has a huge demand for young pilots," Ke said.

Ke said that in 2011, Hainan Airline, a major airline company, planned to recruit 20 pilots in Beijing, but was only able find nine qualified applicants from a pool of around 400.

According to statistics from the aircraft association, China will need another 18,000 pilots by 2015.

Beijing No 57 Middle School will start recruitment for its training class on the coming weekend, accepting 30 students for the year.

"Over the week, we've received many telephone inquiries," said principal Liu Xiaochang, adding that the class will not charge additional fees.

Members of the flying association will offer training for the class.