Kate Sarsfield/LONDON

Asia's fledgling business aviation community is planning to launch a dedicated industry association in May to promote business aviation and address its growing concerns over access and operating restrictions throughout Asia Pacific and South East Asia.

The Asian Business Aviation Association (ABAA) plans to establish its by-laws at a meeting in Shenzhen, China, on 8 May, to agree the location, nature and working practices of the group, and to elect key personnel.

ABAA members will be business aircraft owners and operators as well as manufacturers including Gulfstream, Cessna and Raytheon. "We are targeting companies which contribute to the operation of aircraft in the region as well as international companies. Based on the attendance at recent meetings we expect to have around 50 members initially," says Mark Turner, managing director of Hong Kong-based business aviation service provider Metrojet, an ABAA member.

"Business aviation in Asia is very young and is struggling to gain acceptance in a region which is generally dominated by the airlines," he adds. Turner concedes that the negative image of business aircraft as "rich men's toys" is hindering growth. "You can count on one hand the number of charter operators in the region, and you can count on two the number of aircraft available for hire," Turner says.

Through promotional campaigns and government lobbying, the ABAA will focus on a number of issues, notably the high costs of business aircraft operations, including landing and handling fees.

The association will also address airport access and airspace restrictions, particularly in China, which suffers from a high level of government bureaucracy. "It can take as long as 15 working days to receive a permit to fly within China, and then the choice of airports is limited," Turner says.

These factors, he argues, diminish the appeal of business aviation as a flexible and convenient method of transportation.

Meanwhile, Metrojet, which operates the Hong Kong Business Aviation Centre at Chek Lap Kok airport, is to take delivery of a Gulfstream IV for charter next month. The aircraft, leased from Gulfstream, will join the company's only other business charter aircraft, a Raytheon Hawker 700.

Source: Flight International