China Begins Test Of Open Airspace

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The Chinese government Friday officially began the process of loosening its restrictions on private aircraft by initiating "trial" flights in selected airspace below 1,000 meters. The country chose Haikou, the capital city of China's Hainan island province, to initiate the flights that will be conducted by four helicopters flying without the need to seek permission prior to each flight. The test flights are expected to continue through March. Chinese airspace is controlled by the military and Civil Aviation Administration of China and less than 30 percent of it is open to civil aviation. Currently, pilots of private flights must file ahead of time for approvals that can take up to a week to arrive. The new rules are expected to have an effect on that.

The process started at Haikou will be rolled out over other areas in tests over the next five years, China's State Council and Central Military Commission announced last November. It will allow aircraft flying below 1,000 meters to take off and land without the approvals required today. Aircraft flying above 1,000 meters and below 4,000 meters will still be required to file a flight plan but, if the tests go well, they will not need to seek approval from authorities. State media has reported that aside from stunting industry growth, current restrictions are affecting air traffic, the Associated Press reported. When the tests were announced last year, one village announced plans to buy 20 aircraft for use in training and tourism. China presently has about 1,000 general aviation aircraft. Its market potential is estimated near $150 billion.