March 19, 2010:
China has started a new air force pilot training program, recruiting high school students willing to try out, and sign up for an extended period of training and service. This is being done because the thousand pilot trainees currently recruited from among recent college graduates is insufficient. The problem is the booming civil aviation in China. It's proved difficult to hang onto military pilots once they are trained and complete their mandatory term of service.
China has tried recruiting women. Last year, the first 16 female fighter pilots graduated from a 44 month course. The young lieutenants (age 21-24) are not the first female Chinese military pilots, as there were already 52 in service (flying non-combat aircraft) and another 545 in training. But women often leave when they get married, and want to have children. These are highly educated and motivated women, and even if the law restricts them to only one child, they want to make sure their "little prince" (or princess) gets the best opportunities. This means most decide to give up their flying career.
The high school recruits are all male, and must promise to forego girlfriends if they want to stay in the long training process. This provides these high school recruits with the equivalent of a college education, which they might not otherwise have been able to obtain. It's a hard bargain for adolescent males. But the air force wants better quality pilot trainees, in order to eventually match the military pilot quality found in the West.