Long-awaited lifting of flights ban could pave way for first sales of business jets and private aircraft in the country

Taiwan is considering opening its airspace to general aviation, potentially paving the way for the first sales of civilian business jets and private aircraft in the island nation.

Business aircraft manufacturers are pushing Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) to open Taipei's Taoyuan and Sungshan airports to companies seeking to fly their VIPs overseas. Flying schools, meanwhile, have asked for permission to train pilots from rural landing strips.

The CAA bans all private aircraft operations in Taiwan except for certain ultralights. Taiwan's budding general aviation industry and pilot community have long lobbied for open skies and expect the tide to turn in the next two years.

"The CAA is very receptive," says Shaun Huang, regional sales director for business aircraft manufacturer Ibis Aerospace. "They understand we lag behind not only the USA, but other countries in the Asia-Pacific."

Manufacturers such as Dassault Aviation and part-Taiwanese Ibis are asking the CAA to lift the ban on business aircraft, claiming several local companies would purchase turboprops and jets if allowed to base aircraft in Taipei.

"These aircraft will enhance the economy and will not be used domestically but for flights to Japan and other international markets," says Dassault's Taiwan representative Michel Vedrenne. The CAA agreed last year to launch a study to determine if Taiwan's airspace and airports can accommodate general aviation. To aid the study, Vedrenne, through the European Chamber of Commerce in Taipei, is organising a seminar for European experts to explain how they manage general aviation.

The CAA has raised the weight limit on ultralights from 180kg (395lb) to 280kg, giving pilots hope of further relaxation of the regulations. The Chinese Taipei Microlight Association says the number of registered ultralights soared from about 130 to 200 after the new weight limit took effect last month.

The CAA only issues commercial pilot licences and forces pilots to go abroad for training. Taiwan's FlySky College hopes to change this and has asked the CAA for permission to fly Diamond Aircraft trainers from a grass strip it plans to build. FlySky runs a pilot ground school in Taiwan, but sends students to the Philippines for flight training.

Source: Flight International