China Aviation Law

China opens up General Aviation Test Airspace over Hainan – 海口飞行管制分区低空空域管理改革试飞活动

Statue in Hainan

One of the biggest hurdles to the civil aviation in China has been the military's tight control on the airspace. The vast majority of delays for commercial aircraft are from the ATC. Commercial pilots expect a long wait to get their clearance to push back from the gate. Once airborne, pilots can expect any number of odd holds and approach procedures to adjust for military traffic.

Fly the beautiful grey skies of Haikou

For example, while in cruise on one my flights between Shenzhen and Beijing, we had three separate holds. On approach into Beijing, we dropped down to about 10,000 feet very quickly and spent the last 120 miles so at slow speed and low altitude.

The tight control over the airspace has created problems for general aviation. There are no VFR flights. Instead, all flights must be on a flight plan and pre-approved by the governing agency.

However, this week, the Chinese Civil Aviation Authority (CAAC) took steps toward greater freedom in general aviation. It has opened test general aviation airspace over Hainan island below 1,000 meters. The flights will be conducted by four helicopters flying without the need to seek permission prior to each flight.

Over the next five years, similar test areas will  be rolled out over other provinces. Aircraft flying above 1,000 meters and below 4,000 meters will still be required to file a flight plan but, if the tests go well, they will not need to seek approval from authorities.

Hainan is a tourist island for the Chinese. These initial flights will be local sightseeing tours. However, Hainan is within GA tank-of-gas range from the cities in the pearl river delta and I hope that we will soon see GA traffic between Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Haikou.

Landing at Hainan on a better day.

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Full Text of the Hainan Government Press release in English after the break.