September 19, 2012

A recent report indicating official support for the development of two new general aviation (GA) airports in Shanghai and Beijing was welcomed by advocates for China’s growing business aviation industry.

China’s official Xinhua News Agency cited remarks about the plans for the airports made by Li Jiaxiang, administrator of the Civil Aviation Administration of China. Li said the planned airports were part of a comprehensive program to develop and modernize China’s aviation infrastructure.

Jason Liao, chairman and CEO of the China Business Aviation Group and NBAA’s chief representative in Asia, said the report is “an additional sign of the government’s efforts to build a strong aviation sector in China. Officials have been very supportive of the business aviation industry.”

Liao noted that the proposed airports would also serve as reliever facilities for existing commercial airports in those cities. “Beijing and Shanghai’s commercial airports are saturated with traffic,” he said. “The capitol airport sees 1,500 landings a day. This development not only helps business aviation, it will also ease pressure on the large hub airports used by the airlines.”

China is a strong emerging market for general aviation. Registrations for new aircraft have surged since 2008, as regional business leaders increasingly utilize private aircraft for travel between large commerce centers and outlying areas. GA also played an important role in photographic reconnaissance and disaster relief efforts following a powerful 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province.

That growth has placed particular emphasis on the need for additional facilities to support the burgeoning general aviation fleet.

“For the industry to grow in China, tools are needed to facilitate that growth, and facilities dedicated to general aviation are key components,” said Carey Matthews, general manager at Shanghai Hawker Pacific Business Aviation Service Center, a business aviation support facility at Hongqiao International Airport. “Building a third airport in Shanghai, [especially one] dedicated to general aviation, will in the long term further that development.”

Matthews added that while existing airports in both cities are also expanding to handle the increased general aviation traffic, dedicated airports for GA aircraft would be welcomed by China’s growing pilot community.

“Less populated areas have airports, but the distance [from population centers] makes it difficult for pilots to do ‘weekend flying,’ and to nurture growth for domestic aviation in the heavily populated coastal areas of China,” he said.

A timetable for breaking ground on the new airports has not been released.

NBAA supports the growth of business aviation in the region through the Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (ABACE), which is presented in partnership with the Shanghai Airport Authority and co-hosted by NBAA, the Asian Business Aviation Association and the Shanghai Exhibition Company. Next year’s event takes place April 16–18, 2013 in Shanghai.