Beijing may have put the brakes on its airline's phenomenal expansion rates over the past year but the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) is preparing to cope with another 'Great Leap Forward'.

The latest Five Year Plan, covering 1996-2000, caters for an annual civil aviation industry growth rate of 12 percent, which amounts to a doubling of traffic by the end of the decade, says CAAC director Chen Guangyi.

He says by the end of the period China will enter the world's top 10 in cargo volume (12 billion FTKs), passenger capacity (80 million) and airport handling capacity (150 million passengers). To reach these goals, China needs an additional 320 aircraft over the next five years to bring the total to 660 passenger and cargo aircraft by 2000.

Significantly, the emphasis of CAAC's strategy will be on infrastructure improvements. Some 40 international, provincial and domestic airports will be redeveloped, with emphasis on the three strategic airports of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. 'We hope that within the next five years, the Beijing Airport extension project can be completed along with the commissioning of new airports in Guangzhou, Shanghai, Nanjing, Fuzhou, Hangzhou, Haikou and Nanning,' says Chen. Work will also continue on developing a modern, well-equipped air traffic control system.

The CAAC may have tried to put the brakes on capacity expansion, but the latest traffic figures for 1995 still show extremely healthy growth rates. In the first three quarters cargo volumes rose 22.2 per cent to 5.18 billion FTKs and passenger numbers 27.3 per cent to 37.4 million.

Tom Ballantyne

Source: Airline Business