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Volume 14,Issue 3 Autumn 2012

General Aviation is the Cradle of the Aviation Industry


The United States exemplifies how general aviation supports aviation as a whole. The complete American aviation industry includes manufacturing, sales, parts maintenance, logistic services, military aircraft, and space, accounting for considerable percentage GDP. Aviation-related exports help balance the country’s soaring trade deficit, with one 747 selling for more than one billion RMB, for example, offsets the disproportionate volume of Chinese imports. Meanwhile, despite a recession, the aviation industry is booming in China. What bottlenecks growth here however, is a lack of pilots. Although flight schools have been rapidly developing with the support of domestic airlines, in the long term, it remains unclear as to whether pilots emerging from general aviation can fill this vacancy. Besides pilots, the aviation industry also needs a full range of personnel in management, training, sales and marketing, planning, accounting, financing, insurance, and other ancillary sectors to sustain the Industry as a whole. It is estimated that the Chinese aviation market needs at least 10,000 more professionals. Training schools cannot fully equip students with practical experience, but the proper development of a healthy general aviation sector may just fill the gap. Therefore, we hope that the China can follow the steps that it has done in other industries to sustain a developed aviation industry, i.e., not just the largest aviation importing country of the world, also the largest exporting. But the aviation industry needs a range of technical resources and industry levels, which cannot be obtained overnight. OEM production, developing general aviation activities, opening the market, and research and development in small- and medium-sized aircraft can be the only way to do this. Opening the general aviation market also brings its own set of conveniences for the rest.
China’s landmass is vast, with well-constructed highway and railway facilities, but demands for the delivery of lightweight and high-priced goods, time-sensitive business, reliable transportation, and high-end tourism can not be satisfied solely by ground transportation. Highway and railway networks, moreover, are not cost-effective to reach remote townships, and in such cases small general aviation airport networks may be more effective. With attention to aviation trends and issues in the industrialization process, China needs to re-plan its laws and regulations before opening up GA. During the initial development stage, a thorough understanding of the problems and successes encountered by GA developed countries can give China the foresight to anticipate potential difficulties In our own projects. Industrial aviation products are often high quality, but attention to safety is complicated by production processes’ distribution across different regions and countries, guided by different polices, regulations, market ecologies, designs, manufacturing styles and other factors. Branding, unfortunately, builds reputations orthogonal to the real record (e.g., Boeing is often talked about as too expensive or conservative, whereas Airbus is often talked about as advanced, even romantic). What kind of products should be explored for domestic markets? At same time, what kind of overseas markets should be considered? Low-end markets or high-end markets? Developed or developing countries? Such prepositioning is important in early developmental stages. After sketching a picture of general aviation, we can envision what sort of problems GA may have in the future. Starting Markets and Supply Chains Commercial aviation markets include: manufacturing, manufacturing services, aircraft sales, MRO, FBO (upper and lower customer service business base, services programs including refueling, flight planning, car rentals, delivery centers, etc.), financing, insurance, flight schools, other aviation-related training institutions, land exploitation, airports, aircraft and engine maintenance, hangars, and other related industries (resorts, air parks, etc.). Sourcing Commercial Pilots U.S. AOPA data shows that the existing market for commercial transport pilots is over 10,000, and that there are over 100,000 general aviation pilots. The majority of transport-level professional airline pilots come from general aviation or military backgrounds. All of them have quite a bit of general aviation flight experience, having accumulated many hours and obtained a commercial license, finally passing internal examinations by the airlines to join those companies. But given the general aviation pilot surplus, only the most outstanding (and luckiest) pilots get opportunities to join top-tier airlines. Hence regional airlines, discount airlines, and business general aviation still have access to a supply of high quality pilots. Improving Urban and Rural Areas, Parcel Delivery, and High-End Tourism Considering some countries with developed aviation infrastructure, market formation in China may be comparably determined by national geographic conditions. For example, aviation infrastructures in areas like the United States, Europe, Brazil, and Indonesia span more than 1,000 km North-South or East-West. Here mountain ranges, rivers, and other environmental concerns complicate highway transportation of certain goods. Businesses with frequent city-to-city contact needs often opt for regional aviation. Looking at the development needs of China, civil aviation and general aviation should mature quickly along the same developing pattern. GA can supply transport of heavy or express cargo in Western cities and areas outside rail and highway networks, reducing dependence on those networks’ continuous construction. Also, beyond common domestic and foreign tourism, GA provides more convenient, private, and customized personal tourism. Especially when visiting for the second, third, or fourth time, GA vectors provide certain tourists with richer and finer experiences of an area. Emergency Disaster Relief and Medical Transport A social benefit of GA is emergency relief by the people, independent of the government. The state and local governments would not need to build redundant transportation when emergencies occur, allowing for recruiting temporary rescue teams as quickly as possible. Disaster relief in the wake of the Sichuan earthquake is a prime example. Importantly, the government does not and cannot reliably maintain all disaster relief personnel, equipment, and other resources in peacetime. National Capacity Extension and the Aviation Industry’s Sustainable Development The public does not often recognize the importance of aviation in economic development. In many respects the two are inseparable. In most people’s eyes, the aviation industry is the airlines, but airlines only are a part of aviation industry: others like industrial engineering, manufacturing, services, financial services, marketing and many other industries form core parts of the national economy. It is a deep and wide industry: aviation manufacturing can be developed in some cases to 200-300 times the size of related industrial chains (30 times the size of the automotive industry, for example). Considering the impact to the GDP, it is a worthwhile development investment. Many people argue that there are professional civil aviation training schools in China cultivating talent, and that general aviation pilots do not need to fill the vacancies. But civil aviation professional training schools frequently only attach importance to simulator training, and the talent is good at operational procedures and computers – but with little practical experience. General aviation pilots are not often so lucky as to receive complete professional training, but having more hours of practical experience is also very valuable. The civil aviation training school students can also be trained in general aviation areas, or civil aviation training schools can cooperate with general aviation operators, so as to build practical experience and accumulate flight times to fix the problem of low flight hours in professional schools. Problems in Opening up GA Possible Negative Impact of General Aviation Development Correlation between GA and Higher Accident Rate A higher accident rate in general aviation correlate with several factors, like weather, aircraft, and pilot skill. General aviation participants require a lower professional degree level. Many of them fly for leisure. Flying hours of these pilots per year is low, continuous flight even less, and the time between flights is often long, so that each time before flight they must re-familiarize themselves with many procedures and best practices. Their degree of familiarity is lower than that of professional pilots in civil aviation, who participate in refresher trainings. If general aviation aircraft are not regularly operating, most aircraft owners will not invest heavily in equipment. Most flying here is rather casually regulated VFR; IFR paths, on the other hand, must be carefully prepared in advance, with weather briefing and analysis, data preparation, application for planned routes, etc. Therefore, today many managers and operators are yet immature, and, until more experience permeates the scene, accident rates may rise as GA opens up. Developing regulations and norms with an eye to their practical implementation is an available countermeasure. Also, though, technology is progressing, general aviation aircraft types are increasing, avionic equipment like GPS is becoming increasingly common, engines are becoming simpler and more reliable to operate and maintain, emergency parachutes are becoming more available, and training is becoming more professional. Through exchanging experiences and refresher training, in the long run GA pilots can improve themselves to a more secure level, and, in the short run, developing appropriate regulations, planning and implementation effectively, will be able to reduce accident rates. Terrain, Climate, and Airspace Issues Airspace: Airspace needs to be shared and managed for common benefit. Airspace and air routes have an intangible value for the country. They are now controlled by military and civil aviation authorities, who need to make sure that such exclusive rights and assets can be shared with the public. Airspace is not only the extension of national sovereignty, but it also contains potential opportunities: air routes or services for daily flying has considerable value. There are several things that need to be considered on opening up airspace. We suggest not a rapid comprehensive opening up, but opening up by district or block, by planned stages. This is part because airspace definition and division are really the same problem in a developing country. In addition to the national demands for defense and national security, the construction of many airports which were not coordinated with each other led to airspace overlaps, and the divisions are now very complex. In some cases, civil and military airspace overlap. The area that needs attention most in aviation regulation today is the division of VFR and IFR. In most countries, VFR aircraft are limited in busy airspace. This is not to say they are forbidden to fly, but ATC procedures and sometimes fees incentivize VFR traffic away from crowded IFR airspace, terminal approach, and airspace under peak time pressure. China needs enforcement here. Weather: It’s important to acquire the weather data in a convenient and economical format from the National Meteorological Center, such as satellite images, atmospheric data, high-altitude wind, individual take-off, destination, reserved airports, real-time weather reports, and weather forecasting. Some weather data needs to be provided by the private sector at a reasonable price. It’s impossible to have a safe and reliable general aviation operation field without accessible weather data. Geographical Barriers: The western regions are high-altitude terrain -- hot deserts and cold winters need to be planned for in detail. Opening low airspace in high altitude areas should be planned depending on aircraft type and other factors. Fully opening this region requires caution and prudence. Swarming Airport Development Airport development can bring huge business, but the result of poor or no planning is often airspace overlap, market overlap, or wasted resources. Local airport representatives often bear invisible pressure from local business groups. Whether or not according to market mechanisms, intelligence and political will are required to coordinate airspace structure in planning the development of the city, township, county, and public or private regional airports, we advise holistic, impartial, and flexible strategy here. Operators and the Law It goes without saying that a law-abiding spirit of citizens is not yet mature enough in China. A new generation of aggressive entrepreneurs exacerbates this problem. There must be someone to do research where operating norms and rules are unclear. High costs can incentivize adversely. As in the cost of buying a car prices change according to type, in turn affecting operation fees and insurance, regulations in aviation should be standardized yet individually responsive. Defining Aviation Terms Aviation terminology generally implies using English as an international language. It might be either fair to be restrictive using English only in the domestic aviation industry – or to use Chinese only. GA pilots need to be able to speak in English to be able to fly internationally. From the side of ruling administration and the present market, the GA market is fully open to global aviation counterparts. At the elementary stage for protecting the local operators, language may be an non-trade barrier, which can be openly discussed and studied. Air Traffic Control Setup and Human Resources Airspace is huge in China. Purchasing air traffic control equipment and personnel training should be done in advance. Because this cannot be done within just 2 or 3 years, the plan of general aviation as a whole should be similarly long-term. The quality of air traffic controllers also varies according to the province. Air traffic control officers are assigned to different locations and endure different pressures: rotating work/rest schedules are a special concern here. Air traffic controllers have higher salaries in many aviation-developed countries, and they are taken care of by the industry, since to train and groom such a mature officer takes time. Equipment purchases and upgrades from time to time require investment in accordance with market mechanisms and prospects: funding planning and follow-up maintenance and upgrade projects need to be carefully evaluated. Border Control Along with the conveniences introduced by general aviation, we should also think of the potential security problems. Border control is the same as airspace management, There are protocol issues handing over and taking over problems with other countries, like CIQ(Customs,Immigration, Quarantine). All aspects of the regulations require research, promulgation, and performance. If there are responsibility overlaps between related units, the relation therein should be expressly codified, and unified in terms of references, choosing several ports to set up CIQ or choosing several international airports to deal with problems if involving international borders. It is not necessary to do much in GA on top of the regulatory infrastructure of aviation already established – otherwise the inconveniences can stifle what we are trying to open up. Most users have good intentions, but we should beware of those who want to use the convenience of general aviation to break the law. Of course, outside radar coverage, we can use GA itself to discover illegal activities. Finally, we would like to reiterate that air transport power is an important national strength which cannot be ignored, and that national capacity extension is inseparable from general aviation power. Territorial waters and airspace are an extension of national territory. Whether through professional or through sport pilots, we need to create a new generation of avid aviators. Like the strength of the auto industry spurred on by the R & D and cultural enthusiasm of F1 racing internationally, GA can become a culture and way of life in China as it has in so many other parts of the world. Developed countries often take advantage of tax cuts or recreational or sport flying to lower the threshold of entry to aviation, to encourage public participation, to increase the general professionalism in aviation while increasing the amateur flying population, with ultimate benefits in the science, technology, and the economy. China has no reason not to play a big role in this area. Therefore, we appeal to open up GA early, to encourage everyone to participate, and thus to strengthen China’s future.

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