Flying Without Wings

Photograph for TIME by Eddie Safarik

GROUND CONTROLS: At Alteon's Brisbane training center, simulators tower over Heiniger and his student pilots

Liu Chang isn't your typical airline pilot. The 24-year-old from Harbin, in northeast China, trained in biology, doesn't have a driver's license, and cannot legally fly a small Cessna. But in November he'll be qualified as first officer on a Boeing 737.

Chang, who likes to be called Stanley, had never even flown as a passenger when he saw an ad seeking trainee pilots for Xiamen Airlines. A bit bored by biology and lured by the prospect of a big pay rise, he applied for the job. Eyesight was the strictest test...

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