China Blog: Why GA Is Picking Up

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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.

Stay tuned.†

Gou Xin is editor of Flying China magazine.

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Comments (5)

After reading Newsweek's article "Chinese Education: The Truth Behind the Boasts
by Dexter Roberts April 04, 2013" I was somewhat intrigued as to how would China develop a General/Commercial/Military Aviation population from practically zero. Perhaps a China State mandated or compulsory primary flight training program would accomplish the goal. In the meantime, everyone outside China is lining up for what is expected to be a bonanza in aircraft sales and peripherals. Russia went bankrupt bankrolling students, perhaps it's China's turn now.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | January 15, 2014 11:11 AM    Report this comment

China would be wise to eliminate the Third Class Medical right now before things get started. Then maybe our own FAA would see the light; they sure don't listen to us!

Posted by: A Richie | January 15, 2014 11:24 AM    Report this comment


Roberts is Bloomberg Businessweek's Asia News Editor and China bureau chief.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | January 15, 2014 12:26 PM    Report this comment

Boy, how did these folks get roped in to GA? Talk about; "want to make a million in aviation - start with two"! Or perhaps, the Chinese translation was some how reversed? I hope they have plenty of EMS personal over there - wait until they get they're annual financial reports - smelling salts and oxygen anyone?

Posted by: Rod Beck | January 15, 2014 10:28 PM    Report this comment

Food for thought.

China Issues Civil Aviation Statistics for 2011
By Joy Wong, | Dec. 29, 2011

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) issued the civil aviation statistics for 2011. The most important figures are recorded as follows:

46 Carriers

China has a total of 46 airline companies at the end of 2011, an increase of 3 over last year. The number of air cargo carriers remains 11, the same as the previous year.

180 Civil Airports

China has 180 airports as of the end of 2011, up from 175 in 2010. The 5 new airports are Shigatse Peace Airport, Arxan Airport, Jinchang Airport, Zhangye Ganzhou Airport and Bayannur Airport.

455,000 Hours

General aviation has witnessed rapid development in 2011, with the annual general aviation flight hours expected to reach 455,000 hours, up 16.3 percent over last year, including a 16.9 percent growth of the flight hours for production operation.

1,745 Aircraft

As of the end of November this year, China's registered commercial transport aircraft reached up to 1,745, a net increase of 148 from the previous year; general aviation aircraft up to 1,124, an increase of 114.

69 Billion Yuan

China's civil aviation industry has invested 69 billion yuan in fixed assets in 2011, 46 billion yuan of which invested in airport construction, 1.8 billion yuan in air traffic control system construction.

27,569 Pilots

As of the end of November this year, China has 27,569 registered pilots working in the industry including 1,716 foreign pilots, an increase of 3,293 from the end of 2010.

1.2 Million Industry Practitioners

China has an estimated 1.2 million civil aviation practitioners at the end of 2011, with 597,000 directly involved in the industry operations.

114 Countries

Up to now, China has signed bilateral agreement for air transport with a total of 114 countries/territories, adding a new one in 2011.

140 Cities

Domestic carriers have launched scheduled flights to 140 cities in 60 countries across the world. The number of Chinese mainland cities operating scheduled flights to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are 43, 10 and 41 respectively. Cross-strait flights between Taiwan and mainland China have increased to 558 from 370 a year earlier.

3 Indexes

China's civil aviation industry registered up to 18.89 million flight hours and 8.76 million aircraft movements from Jan. 2008 to Dec. 20, 2011. The sector's fatality rate averaged 0.003 deaths per 100 million passenger kilometers; the accident rates were respectively 0.11 accidents per million aircraft movements and 0.05 per million flight hours.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | January 16, 2014 2:37 PM    Report this comment

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