Aircraft kit-designer Sonex has started exploring demand in the still-murky segment of amateur aviation in China, where no regulations currently exist as Beijing grapples with general aviation policy.
The Oshkosh, Wisconsin-based Sonex has teamed with a new Chinese start-up focused on training private pilots and mechanics called Beijing Aviation Technology (BAT).
The new partnership, which includes the Uniworld consultancy founded Chinese general aviation advocate Francis Chao, will push Chinese aviation authority CAAC to develop regulations for kit-built aircraft modeled on the US Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) special airworthiness certificate for amateur-built designs.
Several dozen kit-built aircraft are already flying illegally in Chinese airspace by amateur enthusiasts, Chao says. Since China currently has no regulations allowing or banning kit-built aircraft, such designs are imported and assembled legally by Chinese owners, he says.
Regulations are necessary to open the Chinese kit-built market to a wider audience, says Sonex general manager Mark Schaible. Sonex, which produces kits for the Sonex, Waiex and Onex sport planes, believes the pilot and maintenance training market will drive demand for kit-built aircraft once regulations exist, Schaible says.
According to Chao, the CAAC could develop and approve regulations for amateur aircraft designs within the next two years. Sonex, however, prefers not to put a timeline on such a rulemaking process.
“We’re a long ways away,” Schaible says. “We’re under no illusion that it will be easy.”