China Sets Out Airspace Plan

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Chinese authorities say that while more airspace will be opened for general aviation, pilots can't expect the "free-for-all" atmosphere of the U.S. and, in some ways, flying will be more strictly controlled than it is now. "Authorities will be stricter with the issuing of pilot licenses and assess the qualification of the aircraft and capabilities of those pilots who want to fly low altitude," Cai Jun, head of the air traffic control department under the general headquarters of the People's Liberation Army Air Force, told People's Daily. "A system to punish violators will ensure those who fly outside of pre-established boundaries will be punished," he said. The goal is to prevent the "haphazard and even dangerous flying" that occurs in the U.S. and other countries and to "try to learn from the mistakes in the U.S. To that end, there won't be much, if any, uncontrolled airspace in China, the report says.

Low-altitude airspace, up to about 3,000 feet, will be split three ways. "Restricted" will be near airports and all aircraft will be under direct control of ATC. There will be "Monitored" airspace where traffic will be visible to ATC which can "issue warnings when necessary." There is also "Report" airspace which may be as close as the Chinese will get to uncontrolled airspace but the report does not say where or how much of this airspace will be included in the mix. Flight plans will be required for all flights, however. GA access to Chinese airspace is currently by application only and it takes a minimum of several days to get the necessary permission. Implementation of the new system will be phased in over the next five to 10 years.