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Large GA aircraft sales to China should follow airspace opening

General aviation aircraft manufacturers are predicting a rising tide of orders from China following the Chinese Government's decision to open the country's airspace below 12,000 ft.

Military control of all airspace in China has long been a major deterrent to investing in GA operations, because of the significant delays involved in getting clearances.

The opening of lower airspace will inevitably stimulate the market for light aircraft and helicopters, though the impact on business jet sales will be imited because of their need to operate at higher altitudes.

Chinese media reports suggest that there are in excess of 1000 GA aircraft in the country right now, but only around 200 of them are helicopters, highlighting the huge market potential.

It is apparent that the Chinese Government has overruled the military at last because it realises that opening the airspace is critical to driving growth in the industry.

But there is also the incentive to support the rapidly developing local aircraft manufacturing sector.

It is no secret that China has ambitious plans to become a serious player in the global manufacturing industry; both Boeing and Airbus have factored Chinese competition into their global market forecasting.

In fact, just this week at the Zhuhai Airshow the Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (Comac) announced it had signed sales memoranda with local airlines for 100 of its 150-plus-seat C919 airliner, which is scheduled to make its first flight in 2014.

Reuters reported from the Zhuhai Show that Eurocopter boss Lutz Bertling believes that China will be producing its own civil helicopters, independently of the joint ventures that now exist, by 2020.

And while there may be some reluctance on the part of Western airlines to purchase Chinese airliners, at least for the time being, that local market in China is set for such huge growth that it can probably take whatever comes off the production lines - and still need acquisitions from Boeing and Airbus.


Doug Nancarrow

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