China to open up lower altitude air space further
The step could help the fledgling general aviation industry that has been hampered by strict controls to take off, analysts say
The State Council issued guidelines on May 17 to open up airspace below 3,000 meters to general aviation to meet a growing demand for flights on private jets and helicopters.
These aircraft had to fly under 1,000 meters till now. The directive by the council, China's cabinet, also aims to streamline approval procedures for general aviation flights. The document, however, did not say when the changes will come into effect.
General aviation covers flights on helicopters and light aircraft used in sectors like tourism, agriculture or disaster relief, which fly at lower attitudes compared to bigger planes used by airline companies. The proposed change will allow the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to designate more corridors for general aviation flights, industry analysts said.
Growth of the industry has been hampered by limited access to airspace, a 2015 report by Asian Sky Group, an aviation service firm in Hong Kong, showed. The number of business jets in use increased by 3.8 percent in 2015 compared to 16 percent in the previous year, the report showed. The company estimated the number of small jets to go up by just 2 percent with only six planes added to the current fleet this year.
Unlikely in countries such as the United States, the low-attitude airspace in China is tightly controlled by the government committee.
The committee needs to relax rules used to govern the airspace to allow the general aviation industry to develop, said an airline company executive who asked not be named.
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