China Blog: Why GA Is Picking Up
The smog in some Chinese cities is too severe to fly these days, but two new general aviation policies recently coming into play may hopefully clear the forward vision a little for the market players in China. First, the Chinese regulator Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) loosened licensing requirements for private pilot licenses (PPL). Second the Peopleís Liberation Army (PLA) handed over the regulatory power of GA flight operation permits to the civil regulator.
These policy changes are making progress for sure, but many implementation details still need to be worked out so the effect remains to be seen. This is not unlike many other policy changes made by Chinese government agencies. The effects of them are not always immediately clear.
The new private pilot licensing advisory circulars conform to FAA requirements for the private certificate. The most significant change is the physical exam requirement. Previously, Chinese PPL applicants had to be as physically fit as airline pilots, almost. The new physical requirement treats PPL applicants more like, well, private pilots. However the new rule is unlikely to displace the decimal in the bottom line of the cost for a Chinese ASEL private pilot license. Right now, thatís about $30,000 USD. In comparison, nowadays it costs about $500 USD to earn a Chinese driverís license which is, itself, higher than what you have become accustomed to in the U.S. Chinaís GDP per capita, by the way, was little over $6100 USD in 2012. I suppose most Chinese student pilots are still more sensitive to the figure on their flight training bills than the red and green dots on color test plates at physical exam.
The most significant change that the new GA operation regulation makes is that finally, Chinese GA flight operators no longer need to apply for permits from the military for every single flight. This is a giant leap in China, especially considering the PLA literally controls every inch of the sky from the ground up. †Days and weeks, in many cases, are expected to be saved for Chinese GA operators after the policy change. However, the new rule does not specify which CAAC department is responsible for the permit, the application procedure or the possible approval time. So you can see what I mean when I say the effect of these policy changes takes time to become clear. †
These two new rules do not redraw the whole picture yet. The amended GA Flight Regulation, low-level airspace operation regulation and the utmost important low-level airspace categorization regulation, are all expected to be released this year and are highly anticipated by the industry. They should stir up the air more significantly. In addition, with the new policies mentioned above, Chinese GA operators would eventually have a complete set of new rules to follow. Chinese investors interested in GA in China have piled up big money, and they may have a piece of free sky to spend with sooner rather than later.
Gou Xin is editor of Flying China magazine.