China, Meet GA; GA, Meet China


Corporate aircraft have been flying into China for years, of course, but the launch of the Olympics in Beijing this week will bring general-aviation aircraft into the country in unprecedented numbers, and the country’s aviation infrastructure will never be the same. U.S. officials are pressuring China to open up its skies, which are 80 percent under military control. “We certainly remain hopeful that … there will be shifts to accommodate the civil aviation growth that has been forecast,” Dorothy Reimold, the FAA’s acting assistant administrator for international aviation, said on Monday. The GA fleet in China could expand from just over 700 aircraft today to as many as 10,000 by the year 2020, she said. FBO operator Jet Aviation is readying to serve that market, with a brand-new facility opening at Beijing’s Capital International Airport (PEK) this week just in time to help handle the Olympics influx. The FBO will provide “around the clock in-house border police and customs clearance, security checks, baggage screening and metal detection capabilities … for fast, secure passenger and baggage handling,” the company said in news release. Also, earlier this month, aviation regulators in China sought to “rein in” pilots and restrict them from shopping around for jobs during the rise in traffic, Reuters reported. Such job-hopping was characterized as a threat to air safety.

Those who fly commercial also will encounter changes, including new security procedures. Atlantic Monthly writer (and Cirrus pilot) James Fallows, who is based in China, recently met with a new request while flying from Chengdu to Beijing. “I had to hold my [bare] feet up while a young security officer waved a metal-detecting rod around the top, bottom, and sides of them,” he wrote in his blog last week. “‘Those are my feet,’ I helpfully pointed out to her. ‘For the Olympics!’ she said, with what looked like a smile.”