I have always salivated over China’s market for light aircraft and helicopters. My law firm has a long history representing helicopter and aircraft companies in their international legal matters — especially involving Russia — and we have always wanted to do the same with China.
In Russia, any oligarch worth his (or her?) salt has a fleet of helicopters. Helicopters are de rigueur for the rich folk of Russia because they both avoid the horrible traffic and they take away the need to be surrounded by a whole host of security limousines.
China has less of a security need for helicopters and light aircraft than does Russia, but it certainly has a need from a traffic perspective. On top of that, I am betting that owning a helicopter in China will soon become at least as necessary an accoutrement for China’s nouveau riche as an ultra-high end automobile.
But until now, this all has been just aspirational because China’s airspace was so ridiculously restrictive to private aircraft that as of 2008, it had only 898 private aircraft, as compared with 220,000 in the United States.
According to The Financial Times, all that will soon be changing:
China plans to open its airspace below 4,000 metres to civilian aircraft, a decision that is likely to open up one of the world’s largest untapped markets for corporate and other private aviation.
The Central Military Commission – the supreme institution governing the People’s Liberation Army – and the state council, China’s cabinet, said in a policy paper that low altitude airspace would be gradually opened to private aircraft….
Who is going to pilot all those new planes and helicopters? Russians, maybe.
What do you think? Is this opening of its air space a sign of China’s overall loosening of restrictions or just a one-off?