Tsay Jaw-yang, chairman of the China Aviation Development Foundation (CADF), believes Taiwan has no alternative but to train its own civil aircraft pilots.
Taiwan's first flying school, which opened on March 14, holds the key to the future of civil aviation, Tsay said yesterday.
A disproportionately large number of foreign pilots fly Taiwan's passenger aircraft, Tsay said. One fourth of an estimated 2,000 pilots working for Taiwan's airlines are foreigners. They come from more than 30 countries with a varying quality of performance.
One third of Taiwanese-born pilots, Tsay said, are retired air force pilots. They do not feel comfortable working for commercial airlines.
The importance of pilots to flight safety cannot be overemphasized, Tsay said. About 70 percent of all air accidents have resulted from human error.
Tsay stepped down as minister of transportation and communications in 1998 to take responsibility for a China Airlines plane crash in which all 196 aboard and six on the ground were killed.
China Airlines and EVA Airways, the two largest airline companies in Taiwan, have pilots trained abroad. The cost of training overseas is "exorbitantly high," Tsay said.
The two corporations spent NT$3 billion for training 500 pilots -- roughly NT$6 million per head.
Named the Taiwan Aviation Training Center, the new flying school can train a pilot for NT$2.5 million, much less than half the cost of similar training abroad.
Nearly half of the training costs in Taiwan will be borne by the CADF, a non-profit organization that is drawing plans to train aircraft maintenance personnel and air traffic controllers.