- Language Tips
SHANGHAI -- Attendees at an ongoing business aviation exhibition are keenly eyeing China's lucrative private aviation market despite major obstacles in the way of realizing the market's potential.
During the Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition held in Shanghai from March 27 to 29, officials have promised more support in developing the country's burgeoning business aviation market.
"The Chinese government is drafting specific rules to regulate business aviation. Various improvement measures and industry layouts are also underway," said Xia Xinghua, deputy director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).
Bans on the use of China's low-altitude airspace for general aviation will also be further relaxed, he added.
Xia's statement has won applause from the world's aviation giants and the country's super-rich, who are anxiously waiting for their jets and have complained about a series of problems hampering further expansion for the market.
Insiders have said China is facing serious problems, including a lack of trained pilots and maintenance technicians, the difficult visa and entry process for foreign professionals and the comparatively high composite tax rate for imported jets.
"Certainly there is enough wealth in China," Carey Matthews, general manager of the Shanghai Hawker Pacific Business Aviation Service Center, a leading aircraft service company, said, but the country's super-rich and organizations have to wait a long time for the jets to arrive and for support services to be built up around the country.
"The key here in the country is not infrastructure, as building is easy in China," he said, explaining that the "exciting part" of business aviation in China is the cultivation of industry professionals, who are "gaining, day by day, the experience to make it work."
No plane, no gain
The rise of the business jet market in China means business jets are no longer a privilege reserved for the country's wealthy elite, and the country should take this time as an opportunity to learn from the world's pioneers, said insiders.
"Organizations all over the world have the same amount of time in each day. Business airplanes help governments and companies all over the world use that time efficiently and productively," said Ed Bolen, president and CEO of the US National Business Aviation Association.
Bolen said business aviation has enabled companies of all sizes to be more competitive. It saves them time, increases productivity and helps companies grab new opportunities.
"It is a time of great opportunities for Chinese companies and units to explore their domestic and global market efficiently by using high-performance and modern aircraft," said Jeffrey W. Lee, vice president of flight operations with American Express.
Apart from providing on-the-go offices and a more flexible timetable, a business jet can also boost the development of a well-run and forward-thinking company, said Lee, who has accrued 30 years of professional experience in the industry.
Lee hopes China will share with the world the opportunities presented by its emerging aviation market, which is vast but has obvious gaps.
China has seen rapid growth in both the civil and general aviation sectors, but especially in the business aviation sector.
In 2008, 32 business aircraft were registered in China. In 2011, the number reached 109, and the country saw 13,400 registered departures and arrivals of business flights last year, according to statistics from the CAAC.
Vast virgin market
Global and domestic business aviation giants, such as the Aviation Industry Corporation of China and the newly-established Beijing Airlines, are now looking forward to support services, professional training and consultancy surrounding the business aviation sector.
The sector's future development, however, depends on a more open airspace as well as a determined and unified policy stance governing the industry, said Wang Wei, vice-president of Beijing Airlines.
It is estimated that China's business aircraft fleet will exceed 260 by the end of 2015. By 2020, China will add more than 280 general airports, 40 of which will be designated for business jets, Xia said.
By 2020, China will set up a basic service support system for the business aviation sector, which includes fixed base operators, flight service stations and maintenance service centers, he said.
China's central government said in its 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) that it will promote the development of the general aviation industry, reform the airspace management system and increase the efficiency of the allocation and utilization of airspace resources.