China Getting Ready For GA

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Last week the Civil Aviation Administration of China unveiled more significant legislation to aid Chinese GA growth. The release of the General Aviation Airport Construction Standards (draft) for public commenting occurred on Nov. 30, the first anniversary of the central government's official announcement for airspace reform. (Click here to download the .DOC file.) These standards are the country's first set of governing rules over the definition, planning and construction of general aviation airports.

The draft version has 30 clauses covering the areas of airport zoning, infrastructure and equipment, service, and environmental protection. Compared with existing Chinese airport regulations, these standards are less strict and offer greater flexibility, therefore allowing unprecedented room for GA infrastructure growth.

In this draft, GA airports are divided into three categories. CAT1 airports are those capable of accommodating aircraft with up to 29 seats, or over 3000 monthly takeoffs and landings. CAT2 airports serve aircraft up to 9 seats or up to 3000 takeoffs and landings per month. CAT3 limits to aircraft with 4 or fewer seats and total monthly movements of no more than 600 takeoffs and landings. Control towers and automatic weather reporting systems are optional for CAT2 and CAT3 airports.

While such flexibility is much welcomed, the categorization method is somewhat ambiguous and prompts certain questions, like how will it interact with airport and airspace planning as well as traffic type and volume? What if, for example, a Cessna Caravan wants to land on a CAT3 airport, carrying six passengers or flying empty? The notes section of the draft (.DOC file) claims that these categories were formed based on "an airport's impact on public welfare." They are "irrelevant" to the airport's physical scale, adopted technologies, ownership or utilization. The standards named "safety, suitability, economy and sustainable growth" as their guiding principles but did not contain any actual administrative procedures such as planning application and approval process. The 10-day public commenting period will end on Dec. 10.