Traditionally, China has not made private jet flight easy for its citizens. China remains a country where the military controls 80% of the airspace, and there are formidable obstacles to obtaining a private jet license. Even the approval for a three-hour trip on a private jet takes at least two weeks to obtain — and it’s never a guarantee.
On top of all this, China has a significant lack of facilities where small planes can take off, land, and refuel, and there are few low-altitude aviation maps available. This means hopping on a private plane to see the other side of the country generally remains a dream — even for the country’s wealthiest people.
Recent shifts, however, indicate that China is preparing to open its airspace to private pilots. More and more people have begun to buy private aircraft and apply for flight certifications for business and recreational purposes. China recently eased the requirements for trainee pilots by changing the standards for theoretical exams, flight tests, and even the physical conditions for flight students.
More importantly, a little-noticed guideline issued in 2010 by the China State Council and Central Military Commission will likely lift the ceiling for low-flying aircraft by 2020.
Business jet manufacturers are hoping to cash in on the demand for smaller planes in China and have begun making plans, if not deliveries:
- Bombardier reports the sale of 100 business jets and indicates deliveries between 2013 and 2032 will be around 2,420.
- Dassault has sold 30 jets in China and has 20 scheduled for delivery in 2014-2015.
- U.S.-based Gulfstream reported that China accounts for about 6% of its worldwide delivery of 2,150 jets.
- Cessna has already started delivering its Grand Caravan EX jet, which is manufactured in China.
“There is a beautiful potential in this market,” says Beijing-based Jean Michel Jacob, senior VP of international sales with France’s Dassault Falcon.
Keep an eye on what is sure to be a rapidly growing and changing industry over the upcoming years.