China has simplified flight approval procedures for some private flights, in a move that could eventually lead to operating restrictions being lifted across the country for the majority of business and general aviation aircraft users.

Under the new rule – which becomes effective on 1 December – companies or individuals flying in a privately owned Chinese-registered aircraft outside a no-fly zone will no longer need to seek prior flight approval from the military. However, a flight plan will need to be submitted to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

Tighter rules will continue to apply to foreign-registered aircraft and private fliers operating near restricted areas, disputed borders, territories or special events. All aircraft will be required to have a secondary radar transponder on board to ensure Chinese air traffic controllers maintain contact with the aircraft.

Ed Bolen, chief executive of the National Business Aviation Association, says the introduction of the new policy marks "a good step forward" for promoting business and GA operations in China and throughout the Asia-Pacific. "We are pleased that Chinese officials have adopted these regulations," he says. "This development is the latest in a series of encouraging signs that China is committed to the industry’s growth."

Bolen noted the changes should encourage additional investment in GA in China. "We hope to see further easing of flight restrictions on GA operations, as the government gains comfort with the industry and becomes more aware of its future growth potential," he adds.