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Chinese delegation gets a look at American-style GAChinese delegation gets a look at American-style GA

Of 5,178 civil public-use airports in the United States, just 559 are set up to serve air carriers. The remainder are general aviation airports that support communities and businesses across the country, International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA) Secretary General Craig Spence told a delegation from Chengde, China, during the group’s visit to Frederick, Maryland, July 25.

Chengde Vice Mayor Li Jinyu and other officials checked out aircraft at AOPA’s National Aviation Community Center and learned more about how Frederick Municipal Airport serves the local community. Photo by Chris Rose.

The city hosted Chengde Vice Mayor Li Jinyu and other area officials at Frederick Municipal Airport to demonstrate how GA works in the United States—and how GA airports can benefit communities in China. Spence’s briefing was part of a day that included a tour of airport businesses and education on flight training, community outreach, and air traffic control. Representatives from the city of Frederick and the FAA also spoke to the Chengde officials about how small airports support U.S. communities, and about resources that are available to municipalities looking to build an airport.

While the United States has a long tradition of open skies, China is working to grow its aviation infrastructure in an airline-dominated, highly structured environment. Spence said he has worked with both the Civil Aviation Administration of China and AOPA China, a member of IAOPA, and representatives of the groups have told him, “We will have general aviation, but it will be consistent with the Chinese culture.” That autonomy—in which member countries learn from GA in other countries and can adapt the lessons to their own circumstances—is the strength of IAOPA, he added.

Differences between GA in the United States and in China were on display as official sought to understand the United States’ unique aviation freedoms: Must private pilots submit an application to take off? What percentage take off on time?

“There’s no schedule,” Spence said. “I go when I want to go.” Spence explained how smaller airports allow businesspeople to arrive close to their destination and often return home in a single day, when security lines and waits at a commercial airport would make for a longer trip.

One universal aspect of GA is the need to generate support from the government and community, and Chengde officials are considering that as they study how the municipality may play a role in GA. 

“This will not just benefit the people who will use the airport, this will help the whole community,” Spence said.

Sarah Deener

Sarah Deener

Managing Editor, 'AOPA Pilot' and 'Flight Training'
AOPA Pilot and Flight Training Managing Editor Sarah Deener is an instrument-rated private pilot and has worked for AOPA since 2009.
Topics: Airport Advocacy, Economic Impact, IAOPA

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