Aug. 6, 2015

Chinese officials are planning to spend billions more on aviation infrastructure, including new general aviation (GA) facilities, according to the country’s next five-year plan, which is expected to be drafted by October, and finalized in March 2016.

The planning director for the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), Zhangyi Wang, said the draft plan anticipates more than 260 major and regional airports by 2020, up from the current 202. Current large-scale projects include the new $12.87 billion Beijing Daxing International Airport, targeted to open in 2018, and a new international airport in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

The head of the CAAC, Li Jiaxiang, has heralded the potential for general aviation to boost the economy; and mentioned the possibility of building up to 2,800 general aviation aerodromes. China currently has 78.

“The development of general aviation will… provide an impetus for emerging industries like private jet manufacturing and air ambulances,” predicted Li Xiaojin, a professor at the Civil Aviation University of China.

The new aviation infrastructure is part of the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt – including roads and rail lines, energy pipelines and power stations – that is envisioned to extend west to improve economic connections with Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

“Certainly the tone from the top is one that we want, talking about expanding the infrastructure, expanding airspace access, making it easier to fly,” said Ty Dubay, president of NetJets China and a member of the board of governors of the Asian Business Aviation Association (AsBAA). “Basically, the government is saying the right things. They’re doing the right things. It is not quick or easy to execute such important plans.”

Two caveats about the emphasis on GA aerodromes are runway length and operating altitudes, noted Doug Carr, NBAA’s vice president of regulatory and international affairs. GA airports are currently built with runways that are 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) long, too short for most business jets.

“AsBAA is working with aviation officials to encourage construction of longer runways that can support larger business aircraft,” noted Carr, who added, “China will need to increase the permissible altitudes, as well, to facilitate greater business aviation use.” The GA ceiling was raised to 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) a year ago, and industry leaders are hoping the next step will be to 3,000 meters (9,843 feet).

“What is pertinent is getting the model right to recognize different business sector needs in China and its growth trajectory,” said David Best, vice chairman of AsBAA.

China’s expanding GA infrastructure is expected to be a focus of the 2016 Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (ABACE2016), set for April 12 to 14 in Shanghai, China.

Learn more about ABACE2016.