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Still a long way to go for Chinese business aviation

In comparison with Europe, America and other developed countries, China’s business aviation industry is relatively young and small in size. However, the nation’s enormous development potential in business aviation has long attracted the world’s attention.

In China’s 12th Five-Year Plan — a series of the country’s social and economic development initiatives — the targets affecting the aviation industry include enhancing aviation infrastructure, improving the efficiency of utilisation of airspace resources and reforming the airspace management mechanism.

Nevertheless, through its seemingly prosperous appearance, there are many problems to be addressed before China is able to usher in explosive growth in its business aviation sector. An insider from China Civil Aviation (CAA) says:

“From the airspace standpoint, it will not be easy for business aviation to achieve rapid development under the existing regulation for Air Traffic Control (ATC). Unlike America’s low-altitude airspace, China’s airspace is under very strict limits.  The opening of airspace will require high-level government decision-making; the CAA and ATC alone will not be enough to change the status quo.”

It is also said that various government departments are still fumbling their way through the standard for China’s future low-altitude airspace. At the moment, it is still unclear how the airspace below 1000m would be measured.

The CAA insider adds:

“From the infrastructure perspective, China is still lacking in the number of airports and there are no airports exclusively used for business jets. However, discussions are in progress for the acceleration of airport construction and facilities that can support business jets. Airport construction remains to be a long-term work – it involves land, commerce, airspace and many other issues; there is also a big restriction on investors.”

It is deemed that the symbolic importance of opening China’s low-altitude airspace far exceeds its practical significance, but at least the country has taken its first step. At the moment an overall action plan is lacking in regards to the next steps in the opening of low-altitude airspace; its operability is premature and patience is needed to wait for the relevant government policies to be rolled out.

“It is fine to be expectant but don’t get overly excited,” the CAA insider says.

Fiona Zhi, Senior Business Development Manager from Chapman Freeborn’s Beijing office shares this view:

“The Chinese government has always shown a supportive attitude towards the business aircraft market because it helps to generate tax revenue and drive the development of related infrastructure. However, the lack of airports and many strict restrictions on air routes for non-B-registered aircraft are hindering the development of business aviation in China.”

At the same time, there are very limited resources to service business jets at the existing airports – some small and medium airports have no related facilities and equipment at all. Hence, in terms of business jet utilisation, China has not been able to reach the level as that of the more mature markets. The lack of fixed-based operators (FBO) also limited the use of business jets as a form of efficient and convenient means of transport.

Zhi also says that the current policies in China are largely protective of the domestic business jet operators – this has greatly reduced the competitiveness of foreign operators that have the experience to provide a greater level of service. As a result, domestic operators are unable to improve their level of service to match the world standard.  Consequently, many business jet owners would rather entrust their aircraft to foreign aircraft management companies; they would even fly their aircraft empty overseas to perform cleaning and regular inspections.

Although business aviation in China had a late start, many relevant government departments and related industries are holding high hopes for this sector. Chapman Freeborn also sees much room for growth in Chinese business aviation.

There is certainly more to be done for the development of Chinese business aviation – enhancing infrastructure developments, making quick improvements to the business jets facilities, opening of low-altitude airspace, and refining service standards are critical to the development of business aviation.

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相较于欧美等发达国家,公务航空在中国的发展历史还很短,规模相对较小,但是其巨大的发展潜力早已引起全球范围的内的广泛关注。中国在“十二五”规划明确指出,要加强航空基础设施建设,改善空域资源的分配和利用,改革低空管理制度。尽管如此,业内人士表示,透过其看似繁荣的表象,中国公务航空想要迎来爆发式的增长还有很多问题是需要解决的。 中国民航局的内部人士分析: “从安全以及监管角度,公务航空这个根据外国Business Aviation直接引进中国的“舶来品”在中国并不具有自己的特点。 从空域角度讲,在现有空管法制条件下,公务航空想要快速发展还是比较困难的一件事。不同于低空开放的美国,空域在中国有着非常严格的限制。而空域的开放则需要政府高层的决策,仅仅民航局,空管局的力量是很难改变这一现状。对于未来的低空开放标准,政府各个部门还在摸索当中,而现行的标准能否被正确理解和使用也是关键所在。关于1000m以下空域的开放,相关的定义也比较模糊。其象征性的意义远远大于实际意义,但至少我们迈出了第一步。至于低空的进一步开放,目前还缺乏整体的解决措施,其可操作性还未成成熟,需要耐心等待政府相关政策出台。可期待,但不可过分欣喜。 从基础建设方面讲,目前我国通用机场较少,没有专供公务机使用的公务机场,加快机场的建设及相关配套设施的完善也在深刻的讨论中。但是机场建设涉及到土地,工商,空域等等各个问题,对投资人的制约性比较大,所以大力快速发展机场建设仍然是一项长期的工作。” 查浦曼的公务机专家Fiona也发表了她的看法: “政府一向对公务机的购买及引进持支持态度,不仅可以增加税收,从而也能带动基础建设。但是目前来看,中国机场的保有量仍然很低,其中相当一部分是半军半民,非B注册的飞机在航路上大大受限,从而对公务航空的进一步发展提出了迫切的需求。 目前国内各个机场的保障设施及相关规定是按照公共运输航班配套设置的,而用于服务公务机的资源十分有限,一些中小机场甚至根本没有相关设施设备,所以在公务机的使用上,还不能达到欧美国家的便利水平。FBO的匮乏也影响了公务机作为高效、便捷的交通工具的发挥。同时,现有政策对于国内公务机运营公司的保护力度比较大,大大降低了国外相对服务理念更加成熟的公务机运营公司在国内的竞争性,从而导致没有办法快速提高自身水平,服务意识还达不到世界水平。介于这个原因,很多客户则更希望将自己的飞机托管到经验更加丰富的国外托管公司,甚至空飞到国外做保洁定检的例子也屡见不鲜。” 中国的公务航空起步虽然相对较晚,但是相关政府管理部门及行业各界也对这一市场寄予厚望,我们可以看到其上升的空间还很大。加强基础设施建设,尽快健全和完善公务机配套设施,低空开放以及服务理念更新都对公务航空未来的发展起着至关重要的作用。要中国公务航空的发展,仍然任重道远。

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