Chinese Bizjet Mismatch: Demand Vs. Assembly Plans

By Bradley Perrett, Graham Warwick
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

Although China's biggest move to date to secure a share of the global business-aircraft market ended in failure, Western manufacturers have continued to pursue deals to build their products there. The latest is Switzerland's Pilatus Aircraft, which is to assemble its PC-6 utility and PC-12 business turboprops in Chongqing. But Cessna and Embraer are the first to persuade China to manufacture business jets, a sector of the market that is expected to grow most dramatically.

The volume of business flying in mainland China, measured by hours in the air, rose 61% in 2010-12, according to Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC ) figures which, by covering two years of operations, flatten out bumps to give a better indication of the trend. The number of movements rose 59%.

The CAAC seems fully supportive of business aviation. Shi Boli, director general of the regulator's transportation section, told an industry meeting earlier this year that, while the potential for further growth was obvious, “we very clearly recognize that the industry is restricted by limited resources. Infrastructure is unsuitable, support services are lagging, specialist personnel are in short supply and so on.”

After consultations with industry, the CAAC says it has come up with an 18-point plan to improve things. Many of the points have been only vaguely described—for example, “strengthening regulation and control, including the system for allowing entry into the market.” But others are a little more concrete, such as “perfecting the national airport plan,” presumably in favor of business aviation, “and pushing forward infrastructure construction.”

Airports at Beijing, Shanghai, Shenyang and Shenzhen have or are building business-aviation terminals. Zhuhai has taken first steps for a fixed-base operation (FBO) trial. Some airports have set up special arrival and departure channels for business-aviation passengers, and some, while having no dedicated terminal, are at least preparing facilities to support business aircraft.

Tap the icon in the digital edition of AW&ST to read our skeptical assessment of the Chinese business aviation market in 2007, or go to

Business and General Aviation – China as an Investor and Manufacturer
AgustaWestland – Joint venture established with Changhe Aircraft Industry in 2005 to assemble AW109 light-twin helicopter in Jingdezhen (as CA109).
Brantly – Acquired by Qingdao Haili Helicopters in 2007; B2B light-piston helicopter production moved to Qingdao; unmanned version developed.
Caiga – Designs acquired in 2010 from bankrupt U.S. kitplane-maker Epic Air by Avic’s China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (Caiga) form the basis of Primus turboprop and Starlight turbofan business aircraft.
Cessna – Skycatcher light-sport aircraft is built by AAT in Shenyang; Caravan is to be assembled in Shijiazhuang under joint venture with Caiga; negotiating with Caiga to assemble Citation XLS+ business jet in Zhuhai, and with ATT to assemble Citation Sovereign in Chengdu.
Cirrus – U.S. light-aircraft manufacturer was acquired by Caiga in 2011; Caiga South China Aircraft Industry assembles Cirrus SR20/22 in Zhuhai.
Continental/Theilert – Continental Motors was acquired from Teledyne by Avic (Technify Motors) in 2010; Theilert Aircraft Engines was acquired by Avic in July 2013 and merged with Continental.
Diamond – Shandong Bin Ao Aircraft Industries assembles DA40 TDI light-twin for China and selected Asian countries.
Embraer – Harbin Embraer Aircraft Industry, a joint venture with Avic, has begun assembly of Legacy 650 business jets in Harbin; first delivery end of 2013.
Enstrom – U.S. light-helicopter manufacturer was acquired by Chongqing Helicopter Investment in December 2012.
Eurocopter – Co-development of the Eurocopter EC175 and Avicopter AC532 medium-twin helicopters was launched in 2005. Harbin Aircraft Industry supplies airframes for the EC175 and builds light EC120 as HC-120.
Flight Design – German light aircraft (CTLS and C4) to be produced in China beginning in 2015 under a deal with Taiwan’s Aero Jones.
Icon – U.S. light-sport seaplane manufacturer’s June 2013 equity financing round was led by a Chinese strategic private investor; airframes are to be supplied by Caiga-owned Cirrus.
Pilatus – Agreement signed with Beijing Tian Xing Yu Science in July 2013 to assemble PC-6 utility and PC-12 business turboprops in Chongqing.
Sikorsky – Changhe Aircraft supplied S-76C helicopter airframes under agreement signed in 2007; new deal signed in September 2013 to supply S-76D airframes.
Superior Air Parts – U.S. piston-aeroengine aftermarket parts manufacturer was sold to Superior Aviation Beijing in 2008, and combined with Brantly in 2011.
Yuneec – Jiangsu-based Yuneec International manufacturers of the e430 electric-powered light-sport aircraft marketed by U.S.-based subsidiary GreenWing International.

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