China's civil aviation regulator gets new party chief

BEIJING, June 17 (Reuters) - China on Friday named Song Zhiyong, currently the chairman at Air China 601111.SS , as the new Communist Party chief for the country's civil aviation regulator, replacing Feng Zhenglin, who is nearing retirement age.

Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) made the announcement on its website, citing a decision from Central Organisation Department, the party's human resource department.

Song, who is 57 years old, started out his career as a pilot at Air China. With his appointment as the party chief, he is likely on track to lead CAAC as its administrator, going by past examples, although that decision needs to come from the State Council, the country's cabinet.

Feng, who turns 65 in September - the retirement age for officials above the full ministerial level in China - first assumed the role of party boss in December 2015 before being named as the chief at CAAC in January the following year.

He remains as the administrator of CAAC for now.

Feng oversaw China's decision to be the first regulator in the world to ground the Boeing BA.N 737 MAX plane in March 2019 following two fatal crashes.

The grounding, soon followed by other countries, elevated CAAC's global prominence at a time when China aims to develop an advanced aviation industry on par with the United States and Europe.

During Feng's tenure, CAAC has also been overseeing certification of the COMAC C919 narrowbody, designed to compete against the 737 MAX and Airbus AIR.PA A320neo families, though it has faced several delays.

More recently, CAAC has been leading the investigation into the country's deadliest aviation accident in 28 years, the crash of a China Eastern Airlines 600115.SS 737-800 jet that killed 132 people in March.
Reporting by Stella Qiu and Yew Lun Tian; Editing by Toby Chopra

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