Home' Asian Aviation : AAV Dec17 Jan18 Contents 34 AsianAviation | Dec Jan
CHINA'S COASTAL CITIES such as the capital Beijing normally
lead trends in economic development due to their wealth of capital
talent and experimental consumers. But a southwestern Chinese
province known for spicy food and panda breeding is ahead in
That spot is Sichuan province one of China's largest. With a
population of more than 80 million the province depends heavily on
private aircraft to service resource-intensive industries in a region
that takes in a swathe of the Himalaya Mountains --- a range too
rugged for a network of roads or railways.
Of the 1 808 fixed-wing aircraft in China's general aviation sector
the highest number for any single provincial-level location operate
in Sichuan Hong Kong-based aviation research and consulting firm
Asian Sky Group says in report compiled recently.
About 90 percent of Sichuan's 251 fixed-wing aircraft are used for
training as the province's demand for general aviation has fostered a
boom in pilot training schools Asian Sky Group's managing director
Je rey Lowe said. The best-known school is the Civil Aviation Flight
University of China.
Private aircraft help companies ferry people as well as supplies to
fruit farms mines and silk industry centres analysts say. The provin-
cial capital Chengdu also serves as a portal for flights from nearby
Southeast Asia to other parts of western China. Sichuan anchors the
economy of southwestern China including Tibet a relatively poor
region in the Himalayas.
"Sichuan is key to China's economic development due to its ge-
ography and history " said Shukor Yusof founder of Malaysia-based
aviation consultancy Endau Analytics.
Land-locked Sichuan's land mass of 485 000 square kilometres
covers a basin that's home to Chengdu and a western plateau that
rises more than 3 000 meters above sea level in most parts. Ver-
tical canyons and snow-capped mountains dominate much of the
province's western side.
Topography plus industry which is expanding in Sichuan along
with a nationwide GDP that grows around 7 percent annually initially
put the province on general aviation maps the Asian Sky Group said.
"Sichuan province and the rest of southwestern China have a
very mountainous terrain where transportation is a big challenge
especially for conventional roads and railways " Lowe said. "There
is enough wealth and big corporations private and state-owned in
Sichuan and southwest China to support the market."
Small aircraft users in Sichuan include shippers of the province's
signature citrus fruits sugar cane and sweet potatoes. Some planes
serve universities and research institutes which turn out profession-
als to work in the general aviation industry Lowe said. The Sichuan
Academy of Aerospace Technology develops systems closely related
to flight including space launch vehicles. Automotive manufacturing
further supports the US$492 billion provincial economy. Aerial tourism
may be on the way.
Four of 120 Gulfstream aircraft that operate in China entered Si-
chuan province between 2013 and 2015 the American business jet
developer 's corporate communications director Heidi Fedak said.
Charter operator AllPoints Jet operates at least two she said. AllPoints
Jet declined comment for this report.
"Relative to other provinces in southwestern China general avi-
ation is popular in Sichuan province " Fedak said. "The province is
densely populated and surrounded by mountains on three sides.
Geographically it is less connected with other regions of China
because of the mountains."
General aviation manufacturer Textron Aviation works in Sichuan
with local governments regional operators and pilot training schools
including the flight university. China's first Beechcraft King Air 350
ER an emergency rescue plane under the Textron Aviation label
reached Chengdu in November 2017 for a client there.
The aircraft can handle "harsh weather and topographic condi-
tions" suitable for medical emergencies and post-disaster rescues
said Mike Shih the firm's vice president of China strategy and
"Sichuan province especially its remote mountainous area has
undergone multiple serious geological disasters in the past few
years " Shih said. An earthquake in May 2008 for example killed
about 69 000 people. "General aviation thanks to its flexibility and
accessibility has been well recognised as a significant force in
disaster rescue and reacting to emergencies."
China's State Council and Central Military Commission have
relaxed rules since 2014 to help foster general aviation around the
country as a way of sustaining economic growth that has eased from
double-digit percentages since 2011.
Changes proposed by central government authorities include
shortening the approval of flight plans and issuing operator certif-
icates faster. Civilian aircraft from 2020 will be able to fly at under
3 000 meters in altitude up from a limit of 1 000 meters allowing the
Civil Aviation Administration of China set up more civilian flight lanes.
General aviation restrictions are laxer in Sichuan and Tibet com-
pared to elsewhere in China Lowe said. "Businessmen are smart
enough to take advantage of that " he said.
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