Academy says its British pilots are not passing classified information to China

Test Flying Academy of South Africa (TFASA) has issued a statement to clarify its position.

Laura Parnaby
Wednesday 26 October 2022 00:01 BST
(Joe Giddens/PA)
(Joe Giddens/PA) (PA Wire)

A foreign flying academy has said that classified information was not passed between former British military pilots and Chinese trainees within its institutions, following concerns over this conduit last week.

Test Flying Academy of South Africa (TFASA), which was previously implicated in reports as a headhunter of British staff for members of the China’s People’s Liberation Army, has issued a statement to clarify its position.

Last week, the BBC reported that up to 30 former pilots including some Royal Air Force (RAF) veterans had been involved in the training.

The broadcaster also said sources had named a South African flying academy as being linked to their recruitment.

No training involves classified tactics or other information, nor any frontline activities

TFASA statement

On Tuesday, the TFASA said it had been in contact with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for “many years” and the department is “fully aware of the nature of the company’s business”.

The school, which trains pilots and engineers from countries around the world, said: “All training aspects and material are strictly unclassified, and provided either from open source or the clients themselves.

“No training involves classified tactics or other information, nor any frontline activities.”

TFASA added that “none of its trainers are in possession of legally or operationally sensitive information relating to the national security interests of any country, whether those from where its employees are drawn or in which it provides training”.

The MoD previously said it was taking “decisive steps” to stop Chinese recruitment schemes targeting military pilots.

A spokesman said: “We are taking decisive steps to stop Chinese recruitment schemes attempting to headhunt serving and former UK armed forces pilots to train People’s Liberation Army personnel in the People’s Republic of China.

“All serving and former personnel are already subject to the Official Secrets Act, and we are reviewing the use of confidentiality contracts and non-disclosure agreements across defence, while the new National Security Bill will create additional tools to tackle contemporary security challenges – including this one.”

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