China Loosens Leash on General Aviation Flights

Could be the harbinger of things to come.

The People’s Liberation Army and the Civil Aviation Administration of China have announced a long-awaited new rule relaxing restrictions on general aviation flying. Chinese airspace is controlled by the military, and before the new rules were established, it could take several days to approve even a short general aviation flight. That process has been shaved to just a few hours, though there are still many geographic areas (borders and sensitive military operating zones, for example) where the old approval process still applies.

Flight plans will still be required for GA operations, but the changes represent a major step forward for civil flying in China. The country’s vast expanse and lack of highways for surface travel have long been viewed as the ideal situation for private air travel. But tight military control of airspace has been a serious hurdle for GA in the country.

It’s also no secret that Chinese investors have shown great interest in U.S. general aviation manufacturers. If GA really does begin to grow in China, these investors could be well positioned to take advantage of that growth.

Airport and airway infrastructure still has a long way to go in China, but the new rules on GA travel could open the floodgates for such investment. And being able to start virtually from scratch with a satellite-based air traffic system, China’s airway structure could quickly become what U.S. planners have been struggling for years to achieve with NextGen’s revamping of the current ground-based platform.

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