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China announced earlier this week that it was quickly growing its aviation infrastructure, adding airports at what sure seems like a blistering pace. In the next five years the country plans to build 66 airports, bringing the number of airports in China from 206 to 272. The expansion will include a new airport in Beijing as well as an additional runway at the existing airport. Beijing is home to more than 21 million people. And it is only the fourth largest metropolitan area in China. Plans also call for many new airports to be added over the next decade, as well, with a mix of commercial, military and GA facilities on the drawing boards.
But perhaps the more important announcement for GA was that the country was looking at opening up large swaths of airspace at lower altitudes. Reuters reported the development on Thursday.
Unlike in most developed countries China’s airspace and national airspace philosophy is controlled by the military, which has priority over civil traffic. It is not known if that model would change with the announced airspace liberalization.
But the benefits to any country of GA are great, with increased passenger travel to more destinations, emergency medical transport and tourism all being virtually untapped resources in China. Flight training, too, would see a boost.
How the rules would affect Western makers of aircraft, who see China as a complicated but potentially very lucrative market. An expansion of airspace access would presumably benefit makers across the segments, but business aircraft makers and helicopter manufacturers would seem to have the ripest markets for growth.