China loosens general aviation flight restrictions

Economic reform plan contains aviation provisions

November 25, 2013

Jim Fallows on opening China's airspace.mp4

China turns control of some airspace over to civilian authority from the military, making it easier for general aviation flights. "China Airborne" author James Fallows explains what it means in this exclusive AOPA Live interview.

China, which has been acquiring foreign companies in the aviation sector and sending delegations abroad to observe general aviation in action, will relax a rule requiring government approval of most general aviation flights.

The rule change, to take effect Dec. 1, comes in connection with a broad package of economic and legal reforms announced by the Chinese government on Nov. 15, and  will "narrow the scope" of flights that require approval, said the partly government-owned AvChina Industry and Technology Co., in a news item posted on its website.

"The general aviation industry of China, which has been restricted by complicated approval procedure for ‘taking-off.’ finally gets favorable policies," AvChina said, explaining that "for most general aviation flights only flight plan application and mission description are required" under the changed rule. Flights that cross the border or enter military airspace are among nine types of flights that would still require mission approval, it said.

In Washington, D.C., the General Aviation Manufacturers Association welcomed the regulatory reform as "in keeping with China's plans to develop the general aviation industry," and consistent with the Chinese military’s announcement, in 2010, of reformed management of low-altitude airspace.

"We commend the government for taking this initial step and we look forward to the pending release of further regulations that more clearly define the altitudes specified for GA operations," said GAMA President Pete Bunce. "With this change, general aviation now has the opportunity to do in China what it does best: to link people and communities, provide emergency medical and disaster relief services, and significantly contribute to economic vitality."

The National Business Aviation Association said it sees the reform as "a good step forward for promoting GA operations in China and throughout the Asia-Pacific region."

"We are pleased that Chinese officials have adopted these regulations specific to general aviation," said NBAA President Ed Bolen in a Nov.25 statement. “This development is the latest in a series of encouraging signs that China is committed to the industry’s growth.”

Bolen said the changes should make aeronautical information more widely available to China’s general aviation pilots, and should encourage new investment in China’s GA sector.

On Nov. 15, following a four-day meeting of top government leaders, China announced a 60-point package of market and legal reforms, and social changes including—as widely reported—an end to the nation’s policy of limiting couples to having one child.

AOPA has worked to help Chinese officials appreciate the role GA can play as the economy expands in the nation of 1.3 billion people. On Sept. 24, 2011, a delegation of Chinese officials experienced the flexibility and practically of GA first-hand, traveling from Washington D.C., to AOPA Aviation Summit in Hartford, Conn., aboard Cessna Citation jets provided by AOPA and Cessna. The officials were in Washington, D.C., to attend a U.S.-China aviation summit.

Just a few days prior, AOPA-China hosted a general aviation summit in Beijing. Events included the first general aviation fly-in ever held in China.

On Nov.24, 2013, the Wichita Eagle reported that the chairman of a Beijing-based investment management organization visited the Kansas City, Kan., area to inspect its aviation industry. Wichita recently opened an aviation office in Beijing, the newspaper said. 

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.