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China GA Specialist Francis Chao Explains Developments in China’s GA Industry and Announces an Industry Consortium led by the Flight School Association of North America
On May 17, 2016 the State Council of the People’s Republic of China issued a document titled “Guiding Opinions to Promote the Development of the General Aviation Industry”. Often referred to as State Council Doc (2016) #38, the authority of the document is roughly equivalent to an executive order in the US. The document is seen by many as representing a major turning point in the development of China’s general aviation industry and many changes have already come about in the industry since it was issued a year ago.
At this year’s EAA Airventure airshow in Oshkosh Wisconsin, widely recognized China GA expert and Managing Director of Uniworld, LLC Francis Chao will give his expert interpretation not only of the concrete measures adopted in the document, but also their wide-reaching consequences for the general aviation industry in China and around the world. Drawing from his experience beginning with his work as a contractor for the FAA-DoD China Aviation Exchanges from 1995 to 2006 and his subsequent campaigns working to promote the GA industry in China, Mr. Chao offers his vision of the current state of China’s GA industry, its future, and what it means for GA enterprises around the world.
State Council Doc #38 is the latest and most important directive issued towards China’s GA industry in a long line of previous orders. Some examples of previous orders include the August 2010 “Guiding Opinions of the State Council and Central Military Commission on Deepening the Reform of China’s Low-Altitude Airspace Management”, which confirmed a timetable for the relaxation of low-altitude airspace restrictions before 2020; a similar July 2014 order that further relaxed airspace restrictions in approved test zones; an October 2014 directive which delegated the authority to construct new GA airports from the executive to local-level government; and the March 2015 announcement that by 2030, each of China’s 2,800 counties will host a GA airport, with 500 planned to be completed by 2020.
According to Mr. Chao, the directives included in the State Council Doc (2016) #38 signal the Chinese government’s ambitious turn to general aviation as an engine of economic development across the country. The document not only further loosens restrictions on the industry (through means such as opening up certain sections of airspace from 1000 meters up to 3000 meters), but also sets ambitious goals for the industry over the next few years.
The document states that by 2020 China aims to have 500 GA airports and 5000 GA aircraft, up from the 1,874 in China at the time the document was released. Moreover, China expects these aircraft to complete over 2 million annual flight hours. With a simplification of the aircraft import process, China hopes to build its fleet of GA aircraft through both importing foreign aircraft and building an increasing number domestically. Using 2015 as a baseline, China also plans to double investment into GA, increase total flight time by 172%, increase fleet sizes by 127%, increase airports by 62%, and increase the number of licensed pilots by 223% by the year 2020.
In general, the document identifies general aviation as an independent “Strategic Emerging Industry” which China can use to foster a new growth point of consumption and the upgrading of industrial structure. According to Mr. Chao, this has led to an abundance of industry-friendly policies, land, and funding to any entity that wishes to develop infrastructure or services related to general aviation. Projects currently underway in China include localized final assembly of some GA aircraft, as well as construction of GA airports, aviation industrial zones, and airparks. The unique situation has also led to the proliferation of land development projects by local governments, developers, and financial institutions carried out under the guise of being general aviation projects. Thus, while GA development is moving forward in response to the government initiatives, its pace is negligible compared to the proliferation of land development schemes.
According to Mr. Chao, this has created a unique need that only the international aviation community can meet. The combination of lofty government targets and the slow development of GA has resulted in the need for a “miracle” worker to bring projects up to speed for their review by the government. As the target deadlines approach, the commercial need for foreign GA expertise will only increase. Given the complexity of the Chinese general aviation industry, Mr. Chao has identified the method he feels will be most effective in meeting this growing demand while ensuring the financial benefit of international GA companies. According to Mr. Chao, the solution is teamwork through consortiums of GA enterprises. This, he believes, is the best way to respond to China’s top-down, state-planned approach to general aviation in which smaller, individual GA enterprises may struggle to make an impact.
Mr. Chao envisions a variety of aviation consortiums that have a high chance of success meeting China’s GA needs, including:
• Certified aircraft manufacturers + financial Institutes + flight training providers + FBOs + MROs + Aerial Works Operators
• Light aircraft manufacturers + flight training providers + FBOs + MROs + Aerial Works Operators
• Aerial Works Operators + airport operators + FBOs + MROs
• A team that can support the operation of a GA airport with services purchased by the local government.
Mr. Chao is excited to announce at Airventure 2017 that the Flight School Association of North America (FSANA) will be taking the first steps to realizing the consortium-based strategy described above. The Flight School Association of North America is a membership-based association which represents flight schools, firms that provide products or services to the flight training or aviation industry, and supporting partners. The consortium formed by FSANA will address many crucial needs in China’s GA industry, including its immense need for additional trained pilots in the coming years. FSANA can provide the flight training capability that China needs by training more pilots in the US, assisting in the construction and operation of flight schools in China, and helping maintain high levels of safety in the industry as it achieves rapid growth. In turn, the China market will help FSANA members increase their profitability.
You can learn more about this initiative, the State Council Document, and the many other opportunities presented by the Chinese general aviation industry by visiting the EAA AirVenture China Pavilion week-long, at Booth #365 (close to Boeing Plaza).

For additional information please contact:
Francis Chao, Uniworld, LLC
Bob Rockmaker, President & CEO, FSANA
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