The Japan Business Aviation Association is pressing for further liberalisation of the rules governing small jets, pointing to a sharp growth in traffic in 2007 as evidence of pent-up demand in the country.

According to the Civil Aviation Bureau of Japan, the 63 Japan-registered business aviation aircraft had 9,403 landings in 2007 - up 25% from 2006. In addition, 629 foreign-registered aircraft landed 2,284 times in 2007 - a 45% growth in aircraft and 80% growth in landings.

"Growth was minimal from 2000 to 2006, and it fell some years. But 2007 was fantastic as business aviation traffic picked up around Asia and economies did well. We believe that this year's figures will build on that growth and we should start implementing measures to boost that," says association chairman Yoichi Kubota.

In June report, the aviation bureau published said it is studying measures that could promote business aviation. Together with Nikkei, a major Japanese media house, a business aviation forum will be held in September to discuss these issues. That could lead to a relaxation of rules this year, says Kubota.

"We expect the rules governing the ETOPS [extended twin-engine operations) threshold to be changed. It is now 60min, but that should increase to 180min by the end of 2008," Kubota says. Permission for foreign-registered aircraft is required seven days before landing in Japan, but that could be reduced to a day, he adds.

The biggest bugbear in Japan, which has some of the world's most restrictive laws for business jets, pertains to the use of Tokyo's international airports. Business aircraft have 21 slots a week at Narita, while they can use Haneda only from 23:00-05:59. But Haneda's fourth runway opens in 2010, increasing the number of slots there by 60,000, and the number of slots at Narita is expected to rise by 20,000.

Kubota is optimistic that business jets will benefit from this expansion, although he is also pressing the authorities to open access at either Yokota, Kisarazu or Hyakuri airports - all an hour's drive from Tokyo - into a business aviation centre.

"The problem continues to be unfair competition between business jets and scheduled airlines. Even if we get around 2% of the slots at Narita and Haneda, that would benefit us greatly," Kubota says. "Ultimately, it would be great if we could have our own dedicated airport in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Last year's figures show that there is great potential for growth, and we hope to build on that in the coming years."


Source: Flight International