Carrier will start operations with leased Gulfstream IV and add second type by year-end

Air China plans to launch a corporate jet operation in July with a leased Gulfstream IV and add a second business aircraft type by year-end. The carrier will become the fourth airline in mainland China to operate business aircraft, joining Hainan Airlines, Shangdong Airlines and Shanghai Airlines in the burgeoning market.

Air China already provides ground-handling services for foreign business aircraft in Beijing. Quisheng Chang, who is familiar with corporate jet services from heading this ground handling operation, has been appointed to lead Air China Business Jet.

Air China's parent, China National Aviation Holding, created the China National Business Jet subsidiary earlier this year. But Air China officials say that last month CNAC decided to fold the new unit under Air China and is now seeking government approval to call it Air China Business Jet.

Air China has agreed to become Gulfstream's first Chinese operator and has sent some of its Boeing 737 and 747 pilots to the USA for training on the Gulfstream IV. Several other business aircraft manufacturers also held preliminary discussions with Air China, but say they could not match the one-year lease deal offered by Gulfstream. Chang continues to evaluate several other aircraft - including those of Boeing, Bombardier, Cessna and Raytheon - and the carrier hopes to begin operating a second type in December.

Gulfstream says it is offering Air China the option to purchase the G200, G300 or G400. Air China will see how the new operation fares before deciding on a permanent fleet.

The carrier wants to shuttle VIPs domestically and overseas and is looking at both the government and private sectors. But Chinese industry officials say the Gulfstream IV is too small for most government delegations, which rely on Challenger 800s (the corporate version of the CRJ) and 737s operated by the government's China United Airlines.

Officials expect Air China Business Jet to compete primarily with Rainbow Jet, which Shangdong launched last year with two Challenger 604s. Hainan and Shanghai operate Raytheon Hawker 800s.


Source: Flight International