General Aviation in China

Robert Chapin

Have you heard that the Chinese market for pilots who want to fly privately (as in general aviation) is growing?  Well, this particular market is not one in which China will outgrow its competitors any time soon.  The reason this growth is occurring now is that it was essentially illegal to fly privately in China until very recently.  According to Xinhua, pilots must apply for a flight approval from the Chinese Air Force before every flight.  As of January, this requirement was lifted for the first time in airspace above six cities and 32% of overall Chinese airspace, up to an altitude of only 1,000 meters.  This plan was announced in 2010, and it includes the opening of additional space in future years.

Another aspect of the boom in China is the export of general aviation aircraft manufacturing jobs from the United States to China.  In 2007, Cessna announced it would start manufacturing its new light aircraft in China.  This would have the advantage of making the aircraft more affordable both in China and the United States.  This became a trend during the 2008 recession and it now looks inevitable that all Cessna aircraft will be made in China some day.

Last week, a deal to sell Hawker Beechcraft to a Chinese investor fell through on concerns about an international conflict of interest, according to the Wall Street Journal.  This will force the company to follow through with bankruptcy proceedings and perhaps keep its operations in the United States.  Beechcraft may find itself in direct competition with Cessna’s lower price point and need to focus on a “Made in the USA” label or on military contracts to stay in business.  With the trend of moving business to China, American-made airplanes and American aerospace jobs could become scarce commodities.

21 Oct 2012

On Assignment



Comment Feed


  • Anonymous says:

    I agree Rob, Most of our jobs in aviation will be mocing to China and over seas. Aviation has always been lead by technology and China is leading the USA in technology today.

  • Brad Coffman says:

    If all Cessna Aircraft is made in China someday do you think this will hurt its sales within the United States?

  • Prof Wall says:

    I’m glad you mentioned the removal of the airspace restriction. This is playing a major role in the increase of GA business in China.

  • Zach Bollinger says:

    It would be very difficult to fly if you had to file a plan with the Chinese Air Force before every flight. A lot that was very difficult paperwork too that would frequently not get done before the flight was planned.

  • The “Made in the U.S.A.” label is becoming somewhat of an historical ideology that may be difficult to keep. Globalization has changed the shape of people’s perception of foreign-made versus U.S. made products. It’s unlikely that one person in the U.S. doesn’t have something made in China. Whether they approve of that or not will not likely change their purchasing practices.

  • Dave says:

    Cessna is also moving some of there light jet manufacturing to China as well, I hope it doesn’t hurt U.S. sales too much.

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