Over the last 60 years, China’s general aviation industry started from ground up and has laid down a foundation for the civil aviation industry and its important roles have caught the attention of the governments, and its development is also supported by various parties of the society. Over the last couple of years, under the CAAC (Civil Aviation Administration of China) support and financing, development of the key general aviation enterprises has been in good conditions, and the service and qualification levels are increasingly improved. Particularly the GA industry in and around Beijing, China’s capital, has been developing more rapidly. There are 9 GA operators, and their operation covers the agriculture, surveying and mapping, electric power, transportation, post, environment protection, meteorology, sports, tourism and medical aid etc, and has been contributing significantly to the economical development and scientific progress.
The education and training of the aviation and flying personnel are an high investment and capital intensive industry ever since, therefore it’s barely possible to manage this solely by the aviation transportation companies alone, whether it’s about the aircraft purchase or the relevant technological means. On other hand, the general aviation industry can step in to this industry sector with its specialized training techniques and comparatively lower operation costs of aircrafts, and thus has been pooling a significant number of pilots for the civil aviation as well as for itself, thus it has activated the human resource market, and has paved a way for the entire aviation industry to adapt to the new market economy and global competition.
The Chinese GA industry is also playing a unique role in the industry restructuring, the transformation of economic development mode as well as the activation of the aviation consumption. In the Twelfth National Five Year Plan, it was clearly indicated that the general aviation sector will become a strategic industry. And along with the continuous progress of the low sky zoning and management reforms, in the future, small private jets, business jets and even unmanned aircrafts will be flying over China’s sky. And with the foundation of the GA aircraft leasing business, the entire GA sector will be directing towards an industry featuring highly talented people, capital intensity and high-tech. This will provide an exploration platform for China’s upgrading of industry and the transformation from a rude (cowboy) economy to an environment-friendly development.
The development of China’s general aviation industry has been a comprehensive, overall system jump – it not only leads to the amelioration of the airport security system, the buildup of the low sky service and short distance transportation system, but also boosts the improvement of the public service capacity. To some degree, the GA industry is speeding up the construction of infrastructure for other industries, and has been considerably contributing to the lifting up of domestic consumption.
It’s hard to summarize the development of Chinese general aviation industry in a couple of words. It has gone 60 years of zig zag roads, and there were uncountable number of major events. Here we only briefly retrospect some of the important development stages in the Northern China region.
The Starting Period
After the People’s Republic of China was founded, in Jan 1951, the Chinese Civil Aviation Bureau (CAAB) of the Military Council (MC) has for the first time carried out prevention and treatment actions for mosquito and flies harms with C-46 type of aircrafts. In 1952, CAAB set up its first general aviation fleet, i.e. the MC/CAAB Agricultural and Forestry Fleet. It was based in Tianjin and was equipped with 10 Aero-45 aircrafts and a dozens of crew. This fleet has conducted multiple operations and thus has started the first wake of the Chinese general aviation industry.
The Period of Slow Development
In the middle 60’s of the last century, the cultural revolution has begun and as a result the Chinese general aviation (GA) business was greatly impacted. Because GA’s main customers in the agriculture, forestry, geological, surveying and mapping industries were all relying on the National Plans for proposing GA tasks, therefore the GA technical personnel have to work under extreme hard conditions at that time. During that period, GA industry has only completed 280 882 hours of operation.
The Period of Recovery
After the cultural revolution was ended, the Chinese GA capacity was still very limited, although additional GA personnel were recruited, some of the aeroplanes, helicopters and special equipment were renewed, thus it was still unable to enhance the task enforcement, management improvement and the improvement of the aviation personnel skills. Since Dec 1978 however, the Chinese GA business has come to a turning point.
In 1980, the CAAB was separated from the Air Force, and was put under the domain of the State Council. In Jan 1986, the State Council has issued the “Transit Management Regulations for General Aviation”, further putting the general aviation into the right track.
During that period of time, China has purchased An-12, An-30, Mi-8, Yunqia (Lark) types of aircrafts and helicopters. These were mostly turbo-propelled. They were more powerful, more payload, lower oil consumption, more advanced avionics, bigger lifting range and better mobility. Some of them were supplied with auto-piloting systems, which greatly reduced the labor intensity of pilots, and at the same time also extended the operation scope, and thus it guaranteed the GA operation in regions with complex terrains.
The Period of Continuous Development
Entering the 1980’s, China’s aviation industry has come into a continuous development phase. By 1991, the total turnover reached 4.3 billion ton km, 10 times that of 1978, with an average increase of 20%. The reform has brought about rapid development of the aviation industry. CAAB’s aviation companies have purchased large number of aircrafts, while the GA sector has trained, pooled and supplied a large number of ground supporting and management personnel. During that period, although the GA sector has also witnessed a significant development, but from the overall trends of view, the development speed has been slipping and the operations have been going down drastically. No new types of aircrafts were purchased, aircraft number were reduced, and the entire capacity was also minimized.
To cope with this problem, in Dec. 1995, CAAC has taken some adjustment measures and has initiated the promotion of the GA sector. After several years of efforts, the GA sector again came into a phase of rapid development. In Dec 2009, CAAC has issued the mandate for the rapid development of the GA industry. 15 actions were put forward, in order to improve the GA development environment, and enhance the operation and service capacity.
In May 2009, China’s first GA personnel education and training school – the General Aviation College of the China Civil Aviation University was founded in Tianjin. This newly founded school will provide education for up to master degree licensing in the GA sector, as well as researches, skill trainings, in order to preserve and supply the needed GA personnel.
Since 2000, China’s GA operation hours are increasing at an annual rate of 12.3%. In 2009, China’s GA operation has reached 123 838 hours, a 11.9% increase over that of 2008, where industrial operations 52 916 hours (+4.6%), agricultural operations 26 309 hours (+6.6%), others 44 613 hours (+25.9%). The total operation duration was 320 000 hours.
By end 2008, China has 3201 of pilots, repair and dispatching people, where 2270 were pilots. China has also 399 GA airports or takeoff/landing points, where 70 were GA airports. By end 2009, China has 93 registered GA operation companies with a registered aircrafts of 907.
Over the last couple of years, Chinese leaders have mentioned about the importance of developing the GA industry multiple times in different circumstances. Relevant government authorities have also issued policies and measures which are aimed at boosting the GA industry development. Of particular importance is the “Comments on the Deepening of the Low Sky Management Reform” by the State Council and the China Central Military Council in Nov 2011.This mandate focused on low sky reform as an important pivot to level off the GA industry development. Together with the development of the GA manufacturing sector, this mandate has provided an important momentum for the development of the GA industry chain.
Thu, Mar 15 2012 10:01 PM
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