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China Opens Up For Private Pilots

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On the heels of recent announcements about easier access to airspace, China on Sunday made it easier for civilians to earn private pilot privileges. Any citizen age 17 with at least a junior-high education will be eligible to apply for the training, and they can take the required tests after 40 hours of flying and 40 hours of ground school. They also must pass a physical exam. Under the old regulations, issued in 1996, the standards for private pilots were essentially the same as for commercial pilots. The change is expected to drive an upsurge in demand for general aviation aircraft in China, a market that U.S. manufacturers have long been anxious to tap.

China's Civil Aviation Authority said it was making the changes "to enable more people to be able to realize their dream of flying." The change is expected to "promote the development of China's general aviation industry, increase the talent pool for professional pilots and play a positive role." As of June 30, there were only 1,610 general aviation aircraft registered in China, compared to more than 230,000 in the U.S., according to China Daily. That difference illustrates the "huge market potential in China," said Gao Yuanyang, director of a general aviation industry research center at Beihang University. However, he warned that "reckless" construction of industrial parks to accompany every new GA airfield could lead to an investment "bubble" with an "adverse impact on the industry."

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