China’s low-altitude airspace will open up for civilian use over the next five years, the State Council and the Central Military Commission announced this week. “This is the beginning of a new chapter in China’s general aviation development,” Martin Lin, China president of Textron, told the Financial Times. The new rules will allow aircraft flying below 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) to take off and land without the hard-to-get prior approval that is required today. Aircraft flying from 1,000 to 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) will be required to file a flight plan but also do not have to seek prior approval from authorities. Within days of the announcement, a wealthy village had announced plans to buy 20 aircraft for training and tourism. “We’ve waited so long for the low-altitude airspace to be opened,” said Zhou Li, manager of the Huaxi Village tourism company. The village already owns two helicopters, which will begin to offer tourist flights next month, Zhou Li told Xinhua.net.
Along with opening the airspace, China plans to build its aviation regulations, services, infrastructure, pilot training facilities and flight safety monitoring facilities, according to the circular released by authorities. China already has about 1,000 general aviation aircraft, but the State Civil Aviation Administration said that number could grow to 10,000 by 2012. The market potential is estimated at about $150 billion. This week, Air Show China is under way in Zhuhai.