Indian and Chinese visitors to NBAA all tell the same story about the pent-up demand for business aviation in their countries. The pressure is building up, dammed by inadequate infrastructure in both countries and made worse in India by a disabling bureaucracy.
Speaking at NBAA, the chairman of the China Business Aviation Group, Jason Liao, painted a simultaneously exciting and frustrating picture of the future for business aviation in China. There are already more than 3,000 individuals in China with a personal net worth exceeding $500 million, and the group is growing fast, he said. So there is a luxury market as well as corporate demand.
In India, where business aviation has until now been considered a luxury commodity, the perception is swinging towards its use as a business-enabling tool, according to the Indian Business Aviation Operators Association.
In both countries, the financial means and the wish to acquire aircraft immediately exists aplenty, but there is an almost total lack of fixed-base operations to support them, and inadequate parking space and hangarage at airports. In India this is exacerbated by the fact that the government approvals needed to import and register an aircraft can take more than a year, sapping the will of entrepreneurs to bring operations into the country rather than charter services from external operators.
Liao said that the Civil Aviation Authority of China is making it a high priority to force the changes necessary to unshackle the entire general aviation sector, and the loosening of airspace restrictions and clearances has already begun. "A huge wave" of FBO development is imminent, he said, but the lack of pilots and trained technicians is also a major obstacle to business aviation development that will, for many years, only be met by importing expatriate skilled employees. At the moment, said Liao, he has to disappoint individuals who approach him with $60 million in instantly transferable cash available, asking for an aeroplane immediately.