Over the past couple of years we have witnessed one of aviation’s inescapable realities: its fortunes are clearly tied to the world economy… and it hasn’t been pretty. Business and General Aviation appears to have been hit particularly hard: I will always contend that the amount of productivity that bizjets, turboprops and piston aircraft generate is substantial and that use of these tools has often been mischaracterized as opulent. Yet, the lift that could have been generated by the introduction of new technologies doesn’t appear to have compensated for the downwards pull of macroeconomic gravity… with some notable exceptions and first among them is China.
China’s surge in prominence is significant in two ways. First (the obvious), it provides a new sales opportunities for airframers seeking to offset lower demand in North America and Europe. With GDP growth projected to stabilize in the vicinity of 8% annually, it is not hard to see the allure of China.
Second (the not-so-obvious), China’s surge in importance is paradoxically contrasted with an infrastructure that is lacking on several fronts. Not only is the number of airports inadequate to support the economy, particularly in its hinterland, but even the existing ones lack a solid MRO and FBO network. For a country whose current bizjet installed base barely broke the 100 count recently (yes, no missing zeros), the lack of an adequate support system would appear to be a substantial hindrance to adoption rates.
Yet, analysts appear to be in agreement that an installed base of 1000+ in China within a decade is within reach. The answer, as readers may have guessed, lies in the Chinese government’s intent to bridge the gap with a solid infusion of construction projects and decreased airspace regulation. China’s 12th Five-Year plan specifically contains the following provisions:
“[…] promote the development of general-purpose aviation, reform the airspace management mechanism, and improve the efficiency of utilization of airspace resources. […]”
For those of us who are not proficient enough in Chinese to read the text in its original form, a number of sites such as this one offer a useful English translation.
If recent efforts by the government to continue fueling its economic growth and maintain the country’s prominence on the world stage are any indications, there should be no doubt that they will succeed and that airframers’ trust in bluer skies ahead are well placed.
The upcoming ABACE tradeshow in Shanghai at the end of March will be a good barometer: it promises to be better-bigger-bolder. The industry’s eyes will certainly be pointed eastward next month.