The roots of China's modern General Aviation
("GA") industry can be traced back to 1951, when the
General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC) used
Curtiss-Wright C-46 aircraft to conduct pest-control missions in
Guangzhou. GA grew at a steady pace until the start of the Cultural
Revolution in the mid 1960s. GA returned to a growth mode in the
mid 1970s and has since expanded to involve dozens of departments
The industry reached a turning point in 1996 when the CAAC
promulgated "The Decision by the CAAC on Issues Regarding the
Development of General Aviation." This legislation emphasised
the need for coordinated development of the national economy,
society and civil aviation sector; recognised the importance of GA;
and outlined specific policies and measures to promote GA. It also
marked the start of a new phase in the industry's
In November 2010, China's central government announced plans
to open up low-altitude airspace for general aviation purposes.
This new change in policy should propel the rapid growth of the GA
industry in China in the near future.
At present, GA exists only on a relatively limited scale in
China. Estimates put the number of GA aircrafts at about 700
nationwide. Most of these 700 aircrafts are involved in
agricultural and utility operations as well as being used for
flight training. Business, personal and sport aviation make up a
very small percentage of GA operations in China.
There are fewer than 150 civil-use airports currently open for
operation, with about 100 more planned to be completed by 2020. All
of these airports are primarily air-carrier facilities, and access
by GA aircrafts is subject to onerous restrictions and
China's airspace is tightly controlled by the People's
Liberation Army Air Force, and access is reserved for official VIP,
military and air carrier flights. GA flights are accorded a low
priority and obtaining clearance to operate a specific flight may
take days, if not weeks.
There is now a surging demand for business and personal
aircrafts in line with China's burgeoning economy and travel
needs. Businesses and growing upper and middle classes are becoming
aware of the benefits of GA as a mode of transportation and the
pleasure of GA as a fulfilling hobby.
Official awareness of the potential benefits of GA is also
growing. Recently, the CAAC adopted a body of regulations governing
GA operations which are similar to regulations that are in place in
the USA. There are plans to liberalise GA access to airports and
airspace, although the extent and implementation of such plans
remain unclear at the moment.
Drawing on the experience of countries with mature GA
industries, the CAAC is now using policy levers to drive the next
wave of growth in China. This includes:
Implementing a pilot program of reforms in Northeast China and
exploring the programme's expansion into other parts of the
Fostering closer international exchanges and cooperation
Encouraging contributions from industry associations
Formulating and refining GA regulations and policies
Simplifying the process for establishing a GA operating
China Aviation Industry Corporation I and II (AVIC I and II)
merged, and AVIC General Aviation Company and AVIC Helicopter
Company were established to better serve GA customers in domestic
and international markets
Reviews designed to lower operating costs (e.g., takeoff,
landing, and handling fees) for GA operating companies and
reduction of import duties and value added taxes on GA aircraft and
parts are ongoing
With the right development catalysts, the GA sector is expected
to grow at approximately 20 percent annually, generate RMB 7
billion of annual output, create 43,000 jobs and deliver a range of
In summary, China represents a very large frontier of untapped
potential for the GA industry. Restrictions, limitations, and other
obstacles to the development of GA within the country are gradually
being eased as demand and awareness increase. Infrastructure is
being built and access is becoming more readily available. The
future holds great promise for the GA industry in China.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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