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Low-altitude airspace flights ready to take off
Sat, Jul 10, 2010
China Daily/Asia News Network

Chinese stocks related to aerospace and military industries rallied strongly on Friday after reports that the Chinese government has put the opening of tightly controlled low-altitude airspace on its agenda.

Shanghai Securities News said that China may unveil detailed policies to guide the reform of low-altitude airspace in the third quarter and that the market size of general aviation, including the relevant industries, may reach one trillion yuan.

"There will be progress in opening up the low-altitude airspace in the later half of this year, and many local governments have expressed interest in investment," said Wang Xia, vice president of the General Aviation School at Civil Aviation University of China.

Currently, low-altitude flying is under strict control by the Civil Aviation Administration and the Air Forces, and any application of low-flying aircraft must go through a complex and time-consuming approval process usually involving several governmental departments.

In its latest issue, the Outlook Weekly also interviewed experts in air traffic control and predicted a huge market ahead for the aviation industry after years of discussions over technical and administrative issues.

Since 1991, Chen Zhijie has been leading a team to research air traffic control at an institute under the Air Force Equipment Academy. Chen and his team are currently focusing on the research of low-altitude management technology, according to the report.

After 20 years, China has made significant progress in air traffic control after investing tens of billions of yuan since the 1990s, said Chen.

Opening the low-altitude airspace is a good way to boost the national aviation industry because it can spur the potential domestic aviation consumption to lure more investment into the industry, Wu Tongshui, president of Civil Aviation University of China, wrote in the Outlook Weekly.

The Outlook Weekly also foresees difficulties ahead, such as the lack of laws to standardize low-altitude flying and underdeveloped equipment for air traffic supervision.

China lifted an airspace ban and allowed people to apply for private flying licenses in 1997, and the first license was issued the following year. In 2003, the first registered private plane took off in China.

Nowadays, it takes 100,000 (S$20,430) to 200,000 yuan to gain a private flying license in China after strict physical checks and a series of theory and practice training. There are currently only 1,000 private flying licenses in the whole country, as few people can pass the harsh tests. -China Daily/ANN

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