The 2013 Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (ABACE) was recently held in Shanghai at the Hongqiao International Airport from April 16th to the 18th. While China still has a long way to go to obtain the benefits of business aviation, there are steps being taken to nurture the industry. NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen said ABACE 2013 represented a “milestone” event, and he thanked the Shanghai Airport Authority and “a visionary number of leaders here in Shanghai and throughout the Chinese government.” The event was considered a success, as visitor numbers were up 20 percent and exhibitors were up 15% from last year.
While there are many supporters of improving business aviation in China, there are a few problems and restrictions presented.
- Cities with high-traffic volumes, such as Shanghai, could greatly benefit from helicopter sales and quick transit times. However, heavy air pollution can reduce visibility, presenting risk to flyers.
- There is a lack of construction of new airports to aid in the growth of air transport.
- Restrictions are still significant on private low-level flights in China – less than 500 meters in altitude.
- A general lack of understanding of the nature of business aviation operations prevents the industry from growing.
- Current prohibitions against helicopter landings at the major airports prevent a major use and sale of helicopters in the country.
What is encouraging, however, is the fact that China’s government has placed the development of business aviation high on its agenda and many flying enthusiasts believe that the country’s private jet aviation market is on the brink of a revolution. Buyers are spending as much as $2.5-million to get their private aircraft, which ranges from gliders to fully equipped private jet charter services. China regional governments have been backing the construction of new airports to facilitate the growth of commercial air transport in general, as well as supporting the reconsideration of the country’s current aviation laws to let private jets fly higher.