China’s first civilian airline brings a new level of Chinese influence into the skies

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China is flexing its economic muscle as its first brand-new civilian airline—The Good Doctor—puts into practice its plans to take a stab at the world’s fastest-growing aviation market by creating world-class flights between three Asian cities. And to help with the process, China’s national aerospace firms have contracted with Taiwan’s big three civil aviation firms to train 2,300 new pilots, officials say.

Founded in 2011, the Good Doctor is focusing on the aviation hub of Hong Kong, but has already announced plans to launch flights to Kunming in south China and Vladivostok in Russia.

A full-time flight crew on board a plane

The Chinese aviation industry is emerging in its own right — China is the world’s third-largest aviation market and fourth-largest economy, according to the International Air Transport Association. Yet the Good Doctor is different from some of the most successful Chinese airlines in that it’s registered as a Taiwanese-registered company and staffed by foreign pilots.

China’s plan is to create a stable aviation environment in which new citizens can take jobs with Chinese companies. However, its strident claims to the air space above Taiwan have left it without airspace rights, even if the territory is a member of the 28-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation region and enjoys close ties with the island nation of Singapore.

With this, the Good Doctor may prove a unique addition to the China-Taiwan aviation rivalry, which has seen a series of encounters in the sky between passengers from the two countries and their pilots and cabin crew. Airlines in China have been filming pilot instructions from a wide variety of sources, including amateur-made videos and even viral online sensations on social media.

A newly trained captain of the Good Doctor

The Good Doctor has had to avoid such training because many pilots of China’s airlines belong to the Chinese Communist Party, which controls China’s aviation-related industries, while Taiwanese pilots are completely autonomous.

“Only 1,100 of our 2,300 pilots are based on Taiwan, and over half of them are non-red pilots,” Taiwan’s civil aviation chief Lin Zhen-chi told Taiwan’s ABC television on Saturday. “We fear Taiwan will become a foreign country in the future if other countries don’t come to our aid, especially with China’s aviation industry being unstoppable and advanced.”

According to Reuters, Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration has so far leased space at 23 firms to train pilots in its civil aviation sector.

Read the full story at Sina Weibo.

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