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that general aviation and business aviation can provide in terms of
opening investment and trade opportunities in the country and fur-
ther abroad. These key themes were not lost on industry executives.
“I think it’s fair to say that the Chinese government is working very
hard to keep the economy moving forward, and part of their effort
was really displayed in their 12th Five-Year Plan when they identified
general aviation as an industry that they want to develop,” Textron
Aviation senior vice president for business development in China,
Bill Schultz, says. “Really, nothing happens in China unless the gov-
ernment supports it. And this past year was a year where they were
very direct and very explicit: they want to grow general aviation. And
then they went one step further and identified the specific areas of
the business segments within general aviation
that they want to see grow, and that ’s a very
optimistic perspective. Clearly, it’s going to
take a number of years for full implementation
of some of their ideas, but the fact that the
government ’s behind it should be perceived
as very optimistic for anybody related to this
industry,” Schultz adds.
Schultz’s comments are apt bearing in mind
the projected future increase in business jet
numbers in Greater China. More than 700
business jets are expected to be delivered
in China during the 2016-2025 period, with
a total business jet fleet of 1,095 expected by
2025, according to Bombardier ’s “Bombardier
Business Aircraft Market Forecast 2016-2025”.
However, while these figures paint a very promising picture of Greater
China’s business aviation industry, they also raise a number of thorny
issues that could slow the industry ’s growth if they ’re not tackled now.
“Infrastructure is a big restriction right now. If you look at Beijing
Airport, Shanghai Airport and Hong Kong Airport, the capacity for
growth is very limited right now,” says Jason Liao, chairman and CEO
of China Business Aviation Group. “ You can have aircraft, but you can-
not use some of the key airports...I’m talking about infrastructure. It’s
not just airports, it’s also a lack of airspace, and a lack of manpower;
we’re talking about pilots, mechanics, and also because of a lack of
infrastructure, the direct result of that is very high costs, so operating
business aircraft is very expensive in China. For instance, pilot costs in
China are about, at least, 50 percent higher than in the US. When you
hire expatriate pilots, you have to give them higher salaries, benefits of
housing, insurance, everything, so your costs add up quickly,” he adds.
However, Liao says the pilot situation will greatly improve over
time, and adds that despite existing concerns about the lack of
dedicated business aviation hubs for business jet operators, says the
government is doing more to address that. “China right now is build-
ing 20, 30 or even 40 new airports a year. And if you look at the key
areas, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, those are high-growth areas.
They are also building business aviation special purpose airports...
they are building brand new airports so that business aviation will
not be competing for take-off/landing slots with commercial jets.
That is still an issue but it’s gradually improving,” Liao says.
Even now, Greater China’s business jet fleet numbers are relatively
high, especially for a region classed as an “emerging market”. During
ABACE this year, Asian Sky Group (ASG)—the Hong Kong-based
business aviation consulting group, released its annual year-end
2016 Asia Pacific Business Jet Fleet Report, which revealed some
telling facts about the total number of business jets in Mainland
China for 2016, but also for Greater China, too.
Not surprisingly, Greater China stood out from other countries in
the Asia-Pacific region by having the largest numbers of business
jets located in the broad area. According to the ASG report, Greater
China’s business jet fleet numbers grew by
4 percent in 2016, with 477 business jets
identified as being located there.
Another issue the industry is dealing with
includes the mind-set or ‘culture’ that per-
vades elements of the Chinese military; that
is, a culture of sorts that questions the mer-
its and benefits of what business aviation
can bring to the country. While it is gradually
changing, more needs to be done to break
down these cultural barriers.
Jetcraft Asia CEO, David Dixon, believes
there are already a number of existing air-
ports in the country that could be used by
general aviation operators, but establishing
the trust of controlling entities such as the
military, and educating them about the positive role that business
aviation has as a wealth creator, is essential if the industry is to
grow and thrive.
“ There is a greater understanding and appreciation of what this
business is about. I think it was seen as being a bit in the way, and
occupying runway slots and all that stuff. So yes, there is greater
preparedness to try to work with our business because of the greater
role it plays. You’ve still got a very strong influence from the military,
and airspace, and control of various areas, so that’s not going to
go away quickly. But I think now, rather than ‘no’, there’s a greater
willingness to talk about it,” Dixon says.
“ When you look at it, America has 500-plus commercial airports
and China has 150, so that in itself is an automatic bottleneck...We
would argue that as an industry, if we can address the concerns of
the military element, or security element, there’s a lot of airports that
could be very easily opened up to civil aircraft, to enable people to
get in and out,” Dixon added. “ The physical airports are there, it might
be a bit quicker if we could work on those 100 or so odd airports to
encourage access and the value that it brings, because these are not
holiday destinations, it’s not as if you’re bringing people in to these
inner areas to play golf. You’re bringing them in because there’s an
opportunity there. Manpower, resorts, maybe factories or investments
of other types, so we’re trying to show that value,” he adds.
China right now is
building 20, 30 or even
40 new airports a year.
And if you look at the key
areas, Beijing, Shanghai,
Guangzhou, those are
CHINA BUSINESS AVIATION GROUP
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