Chinese Automotive Giant Eyes GA Aircraft

Low-altitude airspace to open up in May.

With the Chinese government expected to announce a lifting of the ban on flying below 1,000 meters (3,281 feet), Beijing Automotive Group (BAIC) is looking at building “reliable general aviation aircraft,” said company chairman Xu Heyi. The company did not specify what category or class of aircraft it is planning to build.

BAIC sold 1.7 million cars last year, an increase of 10.3 percent over 2011 despite a faltering Chinese economy. In 2011, BAIC and Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics co-launched Beijing General Aviation (Group) with capital of 100 million yuan ($15.9 million) to focus on developing GA aircraft. Xu said the aviation group hopes to generate 10 billion yuan in 2014, adding that BAIC chose to enter the general aviation field “to enhance its future competitiveness.”

BAIC said China currently has approximately 1,050 general aviation aircraft, compared with the U.S. fleet of 230,000. The company also pointed out that the U.S. general aviation industry registers annual revenue of $150 billion, about 1 percent of total gross domestic product – and accounts for 1.26 million jobs.