Flying in Asia


New Member
Truth or urban myth? It seems like I’ve heard a hundred stories that go like this: "I've know a friend of a friend who got a job flying a 747 in Asia. He only had a 1,000 hours when he was hired and he makes over $100k a year!" Yet, I have never met anybody that this actually happened to. Is there any truth to these stories?
Many foreign airlines do hire pilots with little or no time, send them to ab initio training programs (often in the USA) then put them in large aircraft cockpits with low time. However, usually you have to be a citizen of the airline's native country to do that, and from what I understand the compensation scale is not as favorable as at the typical US carrier.

When I recently took a trip to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific, I noticed all of the pilots were white. I heard that statistically Canadians, Australians, British pilots make up the largest percentage at CX with Chinese pilots being the smallest.

Very interesting, I find. CX does offer a cadet program to train pilots free of charge in Hong Kong though.
I believe you have to be a permanent resident of Hong Kong to qualify for their cadet program.

It certainly wouldnt be bad working there. You start off as a second officer, but you get to log B747 time. The one disadvantage of it, is that you have to live in Hong Kong, but after a few years, you're allowed to bid on international bases, though you take a pay cut if you do. Also, you need to move to Hong Kong if you want to upgrade to a Captain. However I believe CX's freight pilots live outside of Hong Kong though, so that could be another option.
Hey, if I could get a 777 type-rating out of the deal, I would live in Hong Kong for a year or so.

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Yeah, but you would not receive a FAA 777 type rating under the deal.
Many countries where flying is not as accessible as it is in the US, the airlines have programs where they train you to fly. I know with BA you used to get about 250 hours, and then were flying (well keeping the seat warm on) 737, 320, or 757s. The pay was about $20K per year to start of with, and you could not fly long haul until you had over 1500 hours. You think that 250 hours is not very many, however the structure of the training is very different from the FAA gain your PPL, gain your Instrument, etc. It is all geared towards multi crew instrument flying.
I would definately be very cautious of some of the Asian Airlines, I doubt Cathy is bad, but I hear ones like JAL work you like slaves. And it is not a case of living there and working for a year, the program is designed to help out people from their country who very few have the opportunity to fly. I also believe if you quit before your 5 years are up, you have to reimburse some/most of the money they invested in you!
Also, look at the safety record of several of those airlines. They are improving; but China Airlines (I think) had about 3 fatals a year for 5 years.
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This issue has been discussed for years on sites like, some veterans hate flying with ab-initio cadet pilots while some find that they are very professionally trained and competent since their training regimen is very strenuous and competitive, like Iain mentioned.

I mean, you could have thousands of hours of dual given as an instructor but be marginal as an airline pilot in a multi-crew, turbine glass cockpit environment compared to some of these highly trained 250 hour cadets.

And I perceive a sort of anti-Asian bias here, as was mentioned above these programs are required in many of these countries to recruit the right talent because there are not a lot of GA or military opportunities and costs are prohibitive.

It's not just Asians, there are similar programs in the Middle East and Europe, though all these cadet programs are of course limited to citizens. I saw some very attractive cadet schemes at RyanAir and EasyJet, the two biggest LCCs in Europe, but as an American there's no chance for me there unless I marry into some JAA EU goodness or ask for economic asylum
We did some ab-initio type training for pilots from China Northern when they were picking up MD90's. The course was like 3 months long, I remember there was something like 18 full flight simulator sessions, and about 1.5 months of intense Ground School, CBT (Computer based training), and FTD's (Simulator type device with no motion). Some of the pilots were out of the military, so flew MIGS & YAKS.