After decades of heavy restrictions, China has decided to lift restrictions on private aviation. The new legislation is expected to provide a major boost in sales of private jets and helicopters, as Chinese millionaires look for the ultimate way “to show off” their new-found wealth.
The airspace over China - the world’s third-largest country by surface area after Russia and Canada - is under strict military control, but the People’s Liberation Army has recently relaxed its tight control over the skies.
Previously, authorities needed a week’s notice for approval of a private flight. Under the new regulations, approval can be granted within a day, sometimes in just a few hours.
Some business jets are now able to take Chinese executives from Beijing to London and Los Angeles without refuelling stops.
Frank Lee, chairman of China Private Aviation Company, a consultancy offering aircraft acquisition and charter services, told AFP: “Each year, the growth rate in the sector is more than 30 percent and we see a trend of acceleration.”
More than two thirds of the 15,000 business jets in operation around the world are in the United States, while just 150 are in China.
John Rosanvallon, the head of Dassault Falcon, said this low base will result in exponential growth. He said: “Within two or three years, China will represent not one but 10 percent of our market worldwide.”
In the medium term, Dassault is hoping to sell about 10 business jets a year in China, at a list price of between $30-50 million.
Jeff Miller, vice president of communications for Gulfstream, told AFP: “Air traffic control procedures in China have become a lot more flexible, expediting the filing of flight plans. This has made the use of business jets much more practical and advantageous.”
The outlook is just as rosy in China for makers of helicopters and smaller jets, with the world’s major manufacturers - Eurocopter, Bell, Robinson, Agusta and Cessna - set to enter the market.
Developers are already looking to the future, building helipads at resorts and golf courses to offer the wealthy an opportunity to escape China’s polluted cities for a day of fresh air, Lee said.