Xiamen Air – Secrets to Passing the Interview

Notes on Application for Chinese ATPL and Flight with XIAMEN AIRLINES

An applicant should meet the following requirements before flying in China and working at XIAMEN AIRLINES:

  1. Pass the ATPL theory test of the CAAC.
  2. Pass the ATPL license test of the CAAC.
  3. Finish the ground theory learning and flight simulator exercise of XIAMEN AIRLINES; pass the annual proficiency inspection for captains of XIAMEN AIRLINES.

For the first point, the applicant should go through the question bank to be familiar with questions. The past test questions about specific aircraft types of Boeing and Airbus may be unreasonable in some aspects, but it’s necessary to understand these questions and remember their answers.

For the second point, the applicant will take a 2-hour test in the flight simulator with a Chinese copilot. Before the test, there’s a 30-minute oral test.

Basically, the difficulty of the ATPL test in China is the same as that of similar tests in most ICAO countries, except that the Chinese inspectors pay more attention to certain aspects. A pilot who has passed XIAMEN AIRLINES’ interview evaluation has the basic ability to pass the ATPL test. Improvements according to the specific test requirements and characteristics would help to pass the test. We’ll discuss from several aspects.

  1. Oral test

The inspector will ask about 5 random questions, and the applicant shall not consult a book when answering these questions. These questions are usually found in Boeing’s FCOM, QRH and FCTM. The applicant should have a general understand of the following aspects:

  • Limitations for different aircraft types – maximum altitude, flap speed, etc.
  • The maneuvers section in QRH
  • Each emergency procedure in QERH, including faults of memory items
  • Key knowledge of aircraft systems in FCOM, for example: the conditions that trigger the takeoff configuration warning, the working principle of the PTU, etc.
  • Key knowledge points in FCTM, for example: three ways of crosswind landing; how to avoid the tail strike; how to complete the circling approach, etc.

That is to say, a captain should master the knowledge in manuals which, in the actual flight, there is not much time to consult. So the applicant should read FCOM\RQH\FCTM extensively and repeatedly.

  1. Differences in procedures

XIAMEN AIRLINES has only 737-NG and 737-MAX, so the flight procedure is basically the same as the procedure recommended by Boeing. The flight procedure of most applicants is a mixture of Boeing’s procedures from the past 20 years to the present, so there are big differences. Among them, the important differences are as follows:

  • Differences in unit systems

In China, all ATC altitude commands adopt the metric system. The pilot should verify and cross-check the metric/imperial height conversion table for each altitudecommand. This procedure is very important and will take the pilot’s energy. Failure to handle it easily will lead to insufficient attention to other aspects. For example, a pilot busy setting the altitude of the MCP may ignore the state of auto pilot.

  • Differences in FDs

XIAMEN AIRLINES uses the V-shaped fight director (FD), instead of the universal cross-shaped FD. This won’t change in the foreseeable future. The applicant should practice and strengthen manual operation following the V-shaped FD, especially in the low-visibility manual flight phase.

  • Emphasis on manual flight ability

Emphasis is put on the manual flight ability in China. For the typical single-engine approach, the easiest way is to keep the auto pilot on until you see the runway. But in the flight simulator, the applicant should operate manually until landing – whether it is a high crosswind landing or low visibility landing. The inspector may request a manual flight at any stage.

  • Differences in the content and stage of routine procedures

Please refer to Boeing FCOM for the division of responsibility areas. XIAMEN AIRLINES strictly follows Boeing’s procedure. The obvious differences are as follows:

  • The overhead panel is the PM’s responsibility area – pilot in the right seat on the ground;
  • On the ground, the pilot in the left seat operates the engine starter lever;
  • Before the auto pilot is on, MCP is the PM’s responsibility area. After the auto pilot is on, MCP is the PF’s reasonability area. There shall be only one person controlling MCP at any time.
  • XIAMEN AIRLINES’ routine procedure is easier and the routine procedure checklist is easier.
  • Differences in timing of landing configuration

Landing configuration should be conducted over 1,000 feet AFE. All approaches should be stabilized by 1,000 feet in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) and by 500 feet in visual meteorological conditions (VMC).

  • Compliance with speed

Deviations of 10 nautical miles are acceptable if the speed is instructed by the ATC.

Strictly observe the speed limits involving flaps and landing gears, if any. For example, it is unacceptable to release the flap 1 at 240 nautical miles; it is also unacceptable to release the flap 5 before the flap 1 is in place.

  • Differences in principles of handling emergency faults

There are memory items. Stabilized flight, fault reporting, fault identification and call out checklist items are involved – finish memory items from memory if any. Finish the remaining part on the checklist as appropriate. Evaluate influence on the flight and decide on the subsequent flight.

  1. Key points of the test
  • Manual flight ability

At all times, operate the airplane properly during manual flight and avoid exceeding the flight safety envelope. Whether it is a low-altitude go-around (below 50 feet), a high crosswind takeoff, high crosswind landing or low-visibility landing (RVR 550m), there shall be no speeding, stalling, tail strike, wingtip strike, touchdown outside the runway, deviation from the runway, etc.

Note: In case of special faults or weather conditions, speeding and stalling are acceptable. For example, in wind shear recovery, the stall warning can be triggered intermittently.

  • Sinking control during landing; use of the throttle

Do not rudely maneuver the airplane and the throttle, push and pull the lever repeatedly and shake the lever from side to side, or constantly change the thrust setting in order to maintain the wide speed range.

  • Strict division of responsibility areas; manipulation handover; commands and judgments as PIC;
  • Fault judgment and handling of faults through the QRH, especially checklist items with memory items;
  • Limited time

In the 2-hour test in the flight simulator, the inspector will set many faults – engine failure, cabin altitude warning, flap or landing gear fault, electrical system fault, etc. The applicant should reasonably control the time spent on fault handing, so as to finish the test within 2 hours. For example, it is unacceptable for most inspectors to spend more than 10 minutes to finish procedures and evaluation like single-engine flight and approach waiting. The key to pass the test is to have a clear understanding of faults and handle faults smoothly.

  1. Communication

English is applicants’ native language. But for inspectors and copilots, it’s not. Therefore, the active and effective communication within a limited period to overcome language and cultural barriers and show the mature captain’s CRM ability helps you pass the test.

For the third point, to learn ground theory and XIAMEN AIRLINES’ flight simulator test, the applicant should keep learning. For mature pilots, it is difficult or even painful to change the procedures and even the concepts that they have used and adapted themselves to for more than 10 years. However, this is the only way to fly in China.

The requirements for pilots to fly in China are not high, except that there are more specific and special requirements in some aspects. Here are some important points:

  • Metric/imperial height check;
  • Manual flight ability;
  • Strict compliance with the ATC’s commands, especially altitude and route commands;
  • Compliance with the safety height. Do not trigger the EGPWS in actual flight unless in special circumstances;
  • Actual stable approach and landing configuration;
  • Safe landing; and
  • Communication with the copilot, ATC and dispatcher.



You have been accepted by Xiamen to attend their interview in China.  This may be your first trip to China, so there are several things that you should know.  China is one of safest countries in the world.   A VOR Holdings representative will be with you most of the time during your interview, but whether we are there or not, you should not be concerned about shopping or exploring on your own.  Just take your room key or a hotel card so that a taxi driver can return you to the hotel if you get lost.  Unlike taxi drivers in many other countries, the taxi drivers in China are honest and try their best to help you.

When you arrive at the airport, a VOR Holdings Representative will be waiting for you at the airport with your full name on a sign.   We will take you to the hotel and accompany you to the various parts of the interview.

It is important that you bring certain items to the interview.  Some of the items are mandatory and some are optional, but recommended.

Below are the mandatory items:
Documents: Passport, ATP License, Logbooks and Medical Certificate
Electronic Photo: Electrical digital photo with a with Blue background
Clothes: Sports attire for the medical and a uniform or suit for the interview/checkride
Interview Forms: Medical registration form and ATPL application form
Medical Documents: Surgery report
Eye glasses: If myopia, bring two glasses and prescription. If wear reading glasses, bring one pair of bifocal glasses and prescription
SIM Check: QRH
Cash For Incidentals: RMB 2000 (≈$320 USD)

Below are the optional items that you may wish to bring with you:
Computer Equipment: Notebook/Tablet and power plug adapter
Communications Equipment: Wireless access point and VPN

Some of the websites that you may routinely use (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are not accessible while you are in China if you do not have a VPN on your computer or tablet or smart phone.  If you choose to install a VPN, it is recommended that you get the VPN working correctly before traveling to China as you may not be able to access the website where you purchased the VPN after you arrive.  We have found that www.astrill.com and www.reliablehosting.com offer products that work well in China.

Many hotels in China only have ethernet connections, so a portable access point gives you the ability to use your smartphones, tablets and notebooks without ethernet connections.  This is a convenience item, but can definitely make your stay more enjoyable.

Other Items:
Your flight tickets will be reimbursed and your accommodations inside China will be prepaid by airline.  The ground transportation while you are in China will be provided by VOR Holdings and the airline. none

You should drink bottled water while on your interview.  Getting sick before or during the interview is not good.  Also, avoid eating raw vegetables.

Zoe Huang is your onboard support consultant and will coordinate your interview. She can be reached at:

Zoe Huang
+86 185 1958 1345

Welcome to China and have FUN!