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September 7, 2011

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Pilot pay not based on fuel use, airline experts say

LOCAL experts and airline officials yesterday refuted an accusation that many private carriers link fuel consumption to pilot pay, an allegation that came in the wake of a Juneyao Airlines pilot refusing to give way to a Qatar Airways plane running out of fuel last month.

The South Korean pilot refused to give way to the Qatari flight from Doha as both planes waited to land at Shanghai's Hongqiao Inter-national Airport on August 13.

China's civil aviation regulator revoked the license of the pilot.

"The Juneyao pilot had to hover over the airport and consume more fuel if agreed to give way, but the fuel consumption will influence the pilot's payment," Ke Yubao, deputy secretary general of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of China, told the China Economic Weekly yesterday.

The airlines also evaluate pilots by the on-schedule rate, which could also be a concern to the Juneyao pilot at that time, the weekly quoted an insider who declined to be named.

But local experts and officials said the speculations were "groundless."

"Pilots can decide neither the fuel consumption nor the on-schedule rate, because the flying route and time are precisely decided beforehand," Zhou Jisheng, a civil aviation researcher and former deputy designer of China's first domestically developed jet, the ARJ-21, told Shanghai Daily.

Even if the pilots had to wait before landing, the planes' hovering route and time were also decided by the air regulators, so it was impossible for airlines to link the fuel with pilots' salaries, Zhou said.

Apart from adequate fuel for the voyage, each aircraft must prepare additional fuel for at least 45 minutes as reserve, according to rules, but in most circumstances airliners prepare more, he said.

Zhang Wuan, spokesman of the Shanghai-based Spring Airlines, also said it was impossible for the pilot to refuse to give way only for saving fuel.

Juneyao Airlines apologized after the punishment from China's civil aviation regulator, but declined to comment on the accusation.

The lack of more than two airports in Shanghai could be blamed more for the incident, said Fu Shan, an aeronautics professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

The city has two major airports - the Pudong International Airport and the Hongqiao International Airport.


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