How soon will China open up to General Aviation?
Mike Vaughn works with our company in Government Sales and Business Development. Mike has extensive experience doing business in China, having made over 30 trips to mainland China in the past 12 years. He is presently in China working on an aviation project for a client that our company is involved with. .
I attended the Beihang Aviation and Aeronautical University Law School and DePaul University Law School 2nd Annual forum on Aviation Law in China May 12, 2010 as an invited guest of Dr. Sun Xinqiang, Vice Dean, Beihang. It was held in a new auditorium on campus with about 200 in attendance. From the US side, were DePaul Law professors and a Deputy Undersecretary for Transportation, and representatives from the US State Department.
In the audience were special guests, including the head of legal/regulatory affairs for FedEx, United Airlines, and Delta Airlines.
Forum speakers from the China side included the top leaders of CAAC and in the audience were officials from CAAC and the PLA Air Force, so the forum was well represented by both sides.
Another speaker from the Australian based Aviation institute gave a presentation on the growth, traffic and capacity of airlines operating in the greater Asia region (Japan, China, Korea, and south east Asia) from a historical and trends perspective.
China has become the second largest market for airlines in the region in a very short time (10 years) and will become the largest market in the next 10 years.
One topic of note was a discussion about routing through Japan and the decision by the Japanese government to locate the Narita airport away from Tokyo to position Japan as an international gateway. In retrospect, Japan made a mistake because travelers still want to have access to pleasure destinations and urban activities. The location of Narita away from Tokyo (2 hours away) has resulted in a decrease of travelers to Tokyo as a destination. Now they are trying to move gateway flights to the new airport near Tokyo but this would cannibalize business from Narita.
The Chinese will raise the Japan gateway routing issue with the US government in the next round of negotiations with the US for new gates and routes to China. Also, Air China can only fly between Japan and they are not allowed to continue on to the US via Japan, so they are positioning an argument based on reciprocity for equal gate access to the US.
While the round table discussions and forum speakers were addressing airline issues and open sky topics primarily, general aviation was an underlying topic, especially as it pertains to flight ceilings and civilian vs. military uses of airspace.
Right now, general aviation is limited to a 3000 foot (1000 meter) ceiling and all general aviation flights must have pre-approval of flight plans cleared by the military, then scheduled by the local CAAC tower. It causes unreasonable delays and is a deterrent to the expansion of general aviation.
The China officials and China aviation law experts said they were drafting new airspace rules and aviation policies designed to open up China aviation in the next five years.
All in all, the forum was a success compared to other “cooperation summits” I have attended over the past 12 years since I have been coming to China.
The opportunities for general aviation in China will be big if, or hopefully when, the airspace gets opened to general aviation traffic. The demand for general aviation is already there based on the economic development and geography of the country. Thanks to Mike Vaughn for sending in this report.