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China relaxes airspace laws; new airports popping up


08-29-2016 05:28 BJT

General aviation is still new to many in China. But with recent relaxations in government policy, there is now a substantial number of organizations working hard to open up the sky to the masses.

At the Shenyang Faku airshow, you might not see the most spectacular aircraft maneuvers like those in the Paris Airshow. But, you can feel the soaring passion. After four successful years, this has become the biggest playground for aviation enthusiasts in northeast China.

4 years ago, China launched a Five-Year Plan to build a popular and diversified civil aviation industry. The constraint does not lie with a lack of aviation enthusiasts, but an airspace that is tightly controlled.

Other than the limitations of low-altitude airspace, for general aviation to really take off, there also needs to be an increase in the number of airfields available. The Caihu airport where the show is held, acts as a good example. Brand new hangars continue to spring up, and more pilots are acquiring private licenses.

"I've had to complete 150 flying hours in order to become a certified flight instructor. And I think there is a promising future ahead of us as more people apply for a private pilot license," Peng Jian, private pilot with Shenyang Caihu Airport in Liaoning Province, said.

In the US, the general aviation industry contributes billions of dollars to the economy. And China doesn't want to miss out on this. Last year, the country opened over a third of its low-altitude airspace.

"This airport has the least restrictions in low-altitude flights. We don't need to file a flight plan to the General Administration of Civil Aviation prior to a flight. Trainee pilots can fly freely below 1000 meters in a radius of 10 kilometers," Chen Zhanwei, certified flight instructor with Shenyang Caihu Airport in Liaoning Province, said.

The airport has bigger ambitions after the airshow. It plans to become a key training base not just for private pilots, but for airline and commercial pilots as well.

"The runway will be expanded to meet the requirements of trainings for commercial pilots, our aim is to become the center of general aviation industry in Liaoning province. And also, the constructions of several other airports around us have already begun," Li Wenjie, deputy director with Administrative Committee of Faku Caihu Airport, said.

Massive changes to China's general aviation industry are coming -- the central government green lit the construction of 300 new general aviation airports this year, more than double the existing number. This acknowledges the importance of general aviation and how vital it is to the country's transportation system.

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