China has become the world's second largest aviation market, behind only the U.S., with over a thousand foreign pilots flying for the country's airlines as of 2016, reports the Beijing Youth Daily.
According to the latest statistics from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), by the end of 2016, 2,933 civil aircraft along with 1,005 foreign pilots were serving on the Chinese mainland.
The rapid take-off of China's air travel has led to a shortage of domestic pilots, as local training schools have failed to turn out enough pilots to fulfill in the industry's booming demand.
The common practice of a Chinese pilot's long-term or lifelong employment commitments to his company has also made recruiting local talent a difficult battle, contributing to the pressing shortage.
Apart from Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines, the three leading Chinese state-owned carriers who have relatively adequate talent pools, private airlines are more likely to recruit foreign pilots offering lucrative pay packages, reportedly making up to four times a local pilot's salary.
The huge number of vacancies, world-leading compensation and benefits packages, as well as the chance to gain valuable experience on one's CV, are the main attractions for foreigners choosing to fly a plane in China.
The recruitment process of foreign pilots is now quite "mature", with specialized headhunters putting forward possible foreign candidates, and each candidate will undergo strict examinations and assessments before signing a contract, Wu Minghang, a department manager with Shenzhen Airlines, told the Beijing Youth Daily.
It is estimated that China's three airline giants employed 160 foreign pilots, while other carriers had 845 in active service as of 2016.