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Life as a Foreign Pilot in China: What’s it really like?

China has for a long time been a favourite destination for expatriate pilots. The demand for captains on Boeing and Airbus jets in particular seems to be insatiable. It’s a popular subject on pilots’ social media and in the crew rooms. But what’s it like being a foreign pilot in China? Brookfield Aviation has been sending pilots to a plethora of Chinese airlines for the last decade and Siya Sun asked some of our pilots a few questions:

Siya: What are the best aspects of life in China?

Capt. Dave:

I have always been interested in Chinese culture so I just enjoy being here. I have some difficulty with the language sometimes but English is quite widely spoken in the big cities and I’m also learning Mandarin.

Siya: What do you enjoy most about flying for a Chinese Airline?

Capt. Lars: Nice colleagues to fly with. Good working environment.

Siya: Are you comfortable with the balance of work in China with your home life in the West on your commuting roster?

Capt. Pedro: Generally it’s OK. I work on a nine week on + three week off roster which enables me to see my family in Brazil on a regular basis. It’s a long way back home but I’m happy to do it to provide the best for my family.

Siya: How does your income in China compare with previous jobs you have had?

Capt. Reinhard: The best paying contracts anywhere are in China. Mine is no exception.

Siya: Have your family been to China and how do they like it?

Capt. Robert: Just once, my wife and two children came for two weeks holiday from Australia. They had a good time, have seen where I work and some of the touristic sights. Not so good was that I was working for most of the period of their visit. But I do get to spend a lot of time with them when I’m on my home leave.

Siya: How do you find the general professionalism and safety standards in your airline in China?

Capt. Francois: We do have to accept cultural differences when it comes to the general administration of the airline, however the safety standards are up to the same level as we have in the west.

Siya: Do you think you will renew your contract at the end of this assignment, given the opportunity?

Capt. Wolfgang: Almost certainly.

Siya: What are the most challenging aspects of your present role in China?

Capt. Paul: The Chinese administration often look at issues in a different way to some of the ex-pat pilots and this sometimes causes some unnecessary problems. But I believe that we should be following their way as much as possible – it’s their airline and their country- as long as our own standards are not compromised. We have all come to China because we know we can do a professional job and to be suitably rewarded. I like to think we can make a positive contribution to the industry here too.

The vast majority of pilots enjoy the challenge and the rewards of flying China. It’s a wonderful country and a great experience for almost everybody who goes there to work, not to mention the financial rewards which are second to none. Brookfield Aviation has opportunities for pilots with many different Chinese airlines


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