The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has said that 11 major construction projects, along with 52 aviation-related upgrades to current facilities, will be the focus of their attention this year, allocating a budget of CNY77 billion (US$11.9 billion) according to the Xinhua News Agency.
The news agency was told by Feng Zhenglin, head of the CAAC, that “The general aviation sector, especially aircraft research and manufacturing, has become a hotspot of both industrial upgrading and social concern.”
Though sparse on detail, the cabinet spoke on a separate matter regarding the opening up of low-altitude airspace which currently heavily restricts potential markets for both light aircraft as well as helicopters. Greg Waldron, Asia Managing Editor at Flightglobal commented that “Opening up will especially benefit China’s tourism, emergency medical services and pilot training sectors, which operate light aircraft and helicopters.”
Unlike the majority of other parts of the world, the military in China have overall control and responsibility for the country’s airspace and military planes have priority over civilian aircraft. In certain areas there are no-go zones for civilian aircraft which forces civilian aircraft into taking longer-than-necessary routes. More recently, Beijing has begun to relax the rules surrounding 1,000m (3,280ft) ceiling restrictions, with potential for this to be raised to 3,000m and which is more commonly seen in the West.
Commenting on this, Waldron said “I doubt they will let people get into their aircraft and fly off without approval like in Australia and the US. This is still China and there will still be restrictions.”
The knock-on effect of the relaxation of the current restriction would see a massive spike in demand for light aircraft, which in 2013 numbered approximately 1,600, and which flew from only 80 airports. Anticipated demand now is likely to reach 10,000 light aircraft based on some projections, but this is still a long way off the US which has 24,000 airports catering for approximately 300,000 general aviation aircraft.
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