China has a huge potential market for private airplanes but cumbersome regulations prevent the fledgling industry from taking off, state media said May 1. With at least 300,000 millionaires in U.S. dollar terms, the skies over China should in theory be filled with single-engine planes but the number of private aircraft is only about 70, the China Daily reported.
"Everybody seems keen to know more about small planes," said Liu Tiemin, the general manager of a company which deals in small aircraft and is flooded with telephone calls every day. "But most give up the idea of buying when they get to know just how difficult it is to apply for permission to use the airspace," he said. Individuals must apply to local air traffic control offices before flying. The bureau in turn forwards the application to the military for permission. "If a flight crosses two regions, you have to apply to two air traffic control bureaus. It's too much trouble," said Liang Jinying, general manager of Beijing Yanqi Lake Aviation Club.
There are some signs that the authorities are considering reform, including projects in two cities making it easier to apply for the use of airspace below 600 meters (2,000 feet), the newspaper reported. Meanwhile, some maverick pilots are taking matters into their own hands, taking off without authorization and using airspace far away from military installations where they are unlikely to get caught, it added.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007