China pilots told to rise above prostitution, gambling and drink

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s airline pilots have been warned to steer clear of prostitutes, gambling and drink ahead of this year’s Lunar New Year holiday, part of a campaign to strengthen the country’s air safety record.

China has experienced few crashes since the early 2000s, the result of stricter safety rules, better training and a relatively young fleet of mainly Western-made aircraft.

Praising Chinese pilots for flying 8.46 million hours last year, the China Airline Pilots’ Association noted in an open letter that “very few” pilots were selfish or hedonistic.

The association did say, however, that some pilots were involved with prostitutes, gambling, drunk-driving and smuggling. Such behavior “severely challenges legal and moral bottom lines”, it said without naming any pilots.

The open letter was published on an Chinese aviation website late on Wednesday.

The publication comes just ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday when millions travel to their home provinces or overseas and is intended to make sure that pilots maintain their adherence to safety, industry observers said.

“Safety is everything in China,” said Joe Tymczyszyn, former executive director for the U.S.-China Aviation Cooperation Program. “If there is any small deviation in safety, there is strict, strong punishment.”

Officials at the pilots’ association could not immediately be reached for comment.

Reporting by Fang Yan and Matthew Miller in BEIJING; Editing by Nick Macfie