Fri, Mar 29, 2002 - Page 17 News List

Civilian pilot training center launched

By Richard Dobson  /  STAFF WRITER

From left: China Aviation Development Foundation Chairman Tsai Chao-yang, President Chen Shui-bian, Deputy Secretary-General to the President Chen Che-nan and Director-General of the Civil Aeronautics Administration Oliver Yu celebrate the opening of Taiwan Aviation Training Center yesterday.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday heralded the launch of Taiwan's first civilian pilot training center saying it would help increase the number of local pilots flying for domestic airlines and bolster international competitiveness.

Senior airline executives and lawmakers, however, said the local pilot shortage wasn't severe and the Taiwan Aviation Training Center (台灣航空訓練中心), was purely a money-making venture.

The center will offer an 18-month course that will grant graduates a commercial pilot's license from the Civil Aeronautics Administration. The venture is headed by the government-run China Aviation Development Foundation (航發會), which also manages China Airlines Co (華航).

"Since opening Taiwan's skies in 1987, the domestic civil aviation industry is only now forging its own path by establishing the training center by providing Taiwanese with the oportunity to learn how to fly here at home," Chen said.

Taiwan-based airlines have previously relIed on foreign pilots and overseas training.

But PFP lawmaker Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄) predicted that demand for pilots will drop in coming years because of higher-ticket prices and the addition of the high-speed rail.

"This is a scam to simply trick people out of their money," Liu said.

The course will cost around NT$2 million, with the government providing half of the fees. Students are not assured of a job at one of the nation's airlines after graduation.

PFP lawmaker Chen Chian-sung (陳劍松) said that the center wasn't much cheaper than sending pilots overseas for training to countries such as Australia, where it costs around NT$1.9 million.

Although executives of the center hope the student's qualifications will be recognized by the US Federal Aviation Authority, there is currently no guarantee that this will be the case.

Kitty Yen (嚴若琪), president of EVA Airways Corp (長榮航空), said that while the program was a good initiative, EVA had no pilot shortages and wouldn't have any problems filling new vacancies when the company's fleet expands.

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