As general aviation in the United States slides further into apathy China has discovered how useful a network of general aviation facilities and general aviation aircraft are in developing commerce throughout this massive country.
Among many of the changes taking place are moves by companies like the Cessna Aircraft Company to partner with state-owned aviation companies in China to develop general and business aviation in the People’s Republic of China.
Cessna Aircraft has signed an agreement with the state owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China to develop general aviation and business aviation aircraft in the People’s Republic of China as Cessna seeks new markets for its products.
Cessna plans to produce two mid-sized Citation aircraft there and work with on an all new jet aircraft for the Chinese market. Company officials stated that starting in 2013 the new venture would result in the assembly of the Citation Sovereign and the Citation Latitude (once certified) in the city of Chengdu.
The new jet to be developed for China will be larger than any other jet built by Cessna before. Also under consideration are the production of Cessna piston aircraft and the Cessna Caravan, provided the market for those aircraft makes sense.
Here is a short video showing a Cessna Citation Soverign departing:
As if to further underscore the growing market for business aviation in China, work is now underway to build the first airport dedicated to business aircraft operations in China. The all new Beijing General Aviation Airport will take about 6 months to complete and will be located about 30 minutes east of Beijing. Included in the plans are a 5,900 foot runway.
Given the vast size of China, its population and its drive to both modernize and grow its economy, development of general aviation as a business tool to help in that process makes sense. At the same time general aviation in general, and business aviation in particular, continue to be under attack by many in the U.S. Government.
In addition, Chinese officials confirm plans to build 2 or 3 additional airports more than 50 miles apart to allow student pilots to make their required cross country flights as they pursue their pilot’s license.
But the Chinese haven’t stopped there. Recently, Cirrus Industries, Inc., the parent company of Cirrus Aircraft, announced it has been sold to China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Company in Zhuhai, China. Whether production will remain in the United States is yet to be determined, but sooner or later we can assume production will move to China.
It is expected that China will open its low altitude airspace soon which most experts believe will result in a boom for general aviation aircraft use in China. The Civil Aviation Administration of China has said that China will continue to open its airspace over the next few years, and hopes to open all of its low altitude airspace by 2015.
None the less experts believe the general aviation market in China faces significant challenges including complicated administrative procedures.
With anemic growth in the U.S. economy it is clear that any revival of general aviation and business aviation in the United States remains off in the future, and given the cost of fuel one can wonder if it will ever recover to earlier levels.
As I travel around Michigan and visit smaller general aviation airports I am struck by the dreary appearance and lack of activity that I had become accustomed to earlier in my career. I remember in the 70s and 80s when general aviation aircraft sales were brisk, and new aircraft seemed to arrive almost daily.
Today ramps are empty and I see few general aviation aircraft overhead.
Which leads me to the question: Is the future of general aviation in China?
I hope not!
Let me know what you think about the future of general aviation both here in the United States and China.
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