Helicopter operator bids to be Hong Kong's third airline as it seeks clearance to fly regional jets internationally

Helicopter charter firm CR Airways is seeking approval to become Hong Kong's third passenger airline, operating regional jets to secondary cities in China and to other nearby Asian destinations.

The company has also reportedly agreed to take a minority stake in the business jet subsidiary of China's Shandong Airlines, Shandong Airlines Rainbow Jet.

Allan Tang, CR's director of sales and marketing, says an application to register a Bombardier CRJ200 in Hong Kong was filed recently and it is hoped approval will be granted by the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) within a few months, allowing operations to begin in the second half of the year.

CR Airways currently operates a single Sikorsky S-76C+ helicopter. It started flying early last year after receiving its air operator's certificate (AOC) from the CAD. The CAD says amendments are required to the company's AOC to allow for regional jet operations and it is assessing CR's application.

Tang declines to confirm reports that CR Airways has taken a stake of "less than 30%" in Shandong Rainbow, which operates Challenger 604 business jets. Parent Shandong Airlines operates a fleet of CRJ200s.

No regional jets are currently based in Hong Kong, although several companies have studied operations to secondary points in mainland China in recent years.

Two years ago another Hong Kong-based helicopter operator, Helicopters Hong Kong, held talks with China's Hainan Airlines aimed at establishing a joint venture airline to operate regional jets to destinations in China and elsewhere, although no agreement was finalised.

Dragonair, Hong Kong's second-largest passenger carrier after Cathay Pacific Airways, has separately been considering adding regional jet aircraft to its all-Airbus passenger fleet for some time.

Source: Flight International