The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics may be the best thing that ever happened to private aviation in China.
“Ever since the Olympics… the Chinese government clearly has an appetite to continue supporting the remarkable growth of business jet usage from within their borders,” said Justin Lee Firestone, managing director of Firestone Management Group, a private jet consultant.
The government’s “appetite” can be seen in its slow but steady relaxation of flight restrictions for private aircraft.
“[To obtain permits] it can be as quick as a day to three days,” said Firestone. “Not so long ago it was a one-week minimum.”
The government is also relaxing altitude restrictions; last January, it allowed private helicopters to fly at low altitudes over the popular tourist destination Hainan. Although for now this is only a trial period, private aviation supporters see it as a positive step. More trials like this are expected later this year near other cities, including Changchun, Guangzhou, and Shenyang.
Low-altitude restrictions are only one of a host of obstacles that currently face private aviators: overflight approval, access to airports, limitations on parking permits, and other regulatory challenges will need to be addressed as the private aviation sector grows.
“But the level of awareness of these issues has risen considerably recently,” said David Dixon, Bombardier Business Aircraft’s VP of sales for Asia and the Pacific. “The situation is evolving very much in the right direction.”
Bombardier is looking at more than just low-altitude allowances in this statement. China is working to develop private aviation infrastructure, specifically private jet facilities, across the country.
“Although the development has been slow to date, facilities are now being approved in fairly short time,” said Graeme Duckworth, the ExecuJet Aviation Group’s managing director for Asia.
With all of these developments, jet companies are enthusiastic about China’s future. Dassault Falcon of France, for example, recently moved its Asia headquarters from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
“Currently on a worldwide basis, the market in China is less than 1 percent of the total market,” said company president and chief executive John Rosanvallon. “If current trends continue, that will increase to about ten percent within the next five years.”
Bombardier Business Aircraft predicts that the private aviation industry will deliver approximately 1,400 jets to the Asia Pacific region between 2010 and 2019, and predicts that 600 of those jets will be destined for Chinese buyers.
According to Firestone, “Between November 2009 and February 2011, 28 private aircraft were added to Chinese registries, which represents over $1.1 billion in sales.”
At the end of April, there were 216 registered jets in China, Firestone said, including 10 recent deliveries. According to the Firestone Management Group, Gulfstream Aerospace holds the largest market share of private aircraft in China, with 37 percent; Cessna and Bombardier hold the second- and third-largest market shares in the nation.
image credit: cessna