China to Open Low Altitude Airspace to Private Sector

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Nov. 17 – China plans to gradually open up its airspace below 1,000 meters in the coming years to facilitate the country’s rapid development in the general aviation industry. Specialists believe the new policy represents a lucrative opportunity for firms in China’s private aviation industry to exploit the country’s large market potential.

China’s State Council and Central Military Commission jointly released a circular on November 14 announcing the decision to intensify the reform of China’s low altitude airspace. According to the circular, reforms will include the opening-up of China’s airspace below 1,000 meters to general aviation with trial locations for the new policy covering Beijing, Changchun, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Lanzhou, Jinan, and Nanjing by the end of 2015.

Aviation experts believe the market potential of China’s civilian aviation industry will be no less than RMB1 trillion. “That is just a very prudent estimation,” said to Wu Jinmin, an aviation industry consultant with Singapore Empower Group. China’s general aviation industry, including both private and commercial civilian flights, has experienced an average 10 percent growth over the past few years.

According to a report in Hangzhou-based newspaper Dushi Kuaibao, one-sixth of the over 2,000 billionaires on the 2010 Forbes China Rich List have the intention to buy private aircraft. The report also quoted Michael Walsh, the vice president of the world’s leading private jet company Asia Jet, estimating China’s private aircraft market scale will expand by 20 percent to 25 percent annually over the next 10 years.

Wu believes the private jet clubs will not be the only ones benefiting from the new policy. “A brand-new industry chain will emerge from the industries of private aircraft maintenance, management personnel training, and pilot training to operation base construction and low altitude airspace tour,” she said.

There are also specialists who hold a more cautious attitude of China’s plans. Wu Tongshui, president of the Civil Aviation University of China, says there is still a long way to go until the country’s low altitude airspace is fully opened and the aviation industry still needs more analysis to define its market opportunities.

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