Japan prepares for growth of business aviation

 - October 2, 2006, 5:58 AM

Presenting an update of Japanese business aviation initiatives, Masaki Nakatani, associate secretary general of the Japan Business Aviation Association (JBAA), said, “There has been a slight increase in the number of business aircraft landing in Japan between 2000 and last year (up to 15,113 from 12,782) but it is still not a common phenomenon.” He went on to explain that there are several reasons for the historic lack of business aviation in the country.

“Business activities are concentrated into Osaka, Nagoya and especially Tokyo, but before the rededication of Nagoya to business aviation there was a lack of suitable airports in these areas,” Nakatani said.

“It is still difficult for business aircraft to operate in and out of Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita airports,” he said. “It is difficult to obtain slots for landing, and if you do land at one of them you won’t find an FBO, and there isn’t even much business aircraft parking available. Worse, customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) procedures require business jet travelers to co-mingle with airline passengers, making the process inconvenient. And there are the expensive landing fees and charges for ground handling.”

Nakatani said there are also reasons for the limited number of Japanese-registered business aircraft. “The Japanese government still over-regulates maintenance,” he explained. “Mechanics must be certified by type of aircraft, inspections must be done by the government on all modifications and major repairs, and an aircraft’s certificate of airworthiness has to be renewed annually, putting the aircraft out of action for as long as a month. The problem is that Japanese operational requirements for business charter aircraft are equivalent to those of U.S. FAR Part 121; we do not have an equivalent to FAR 135.”

Hiroshi Higashiyama, president of Sky Support Japan, expanded upon Nakatani’s comments. “There are 25 airports of entry in Japan,” he said. “They all have strict operational requirements for business aircraft. There are mandatory slots, difficulties getting to CIQ, aircraft must be equipped with TCAS and many must comply with Stage 3 noise limits. And even when they comply with all these requirements, they find commercial aircraft have priority and there are no FBOs.” Higashiyama went on to say that with the continuing growth in trade between Japan and other Asian countries it was more necessary than ever for the nation to accommodate business aviation. “Things are getting better and the government is beginning to open up. It is now possible for business aircraft to have access with only three working days’ notice before the intended initial landing day. That is an important step forward.”

According to Higashiyama, Narita is a one- to two-hour drive from downtown Tokyo depending upon traffic; Haneda is much closer at 15 to 45 minutes. Both are 24-hour operations, but Narita has tight restrictions from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m.. The rest of the day there are a total of 546 slots available for all aircraft, and commercial aircraft get priority. “It is possible for business aircraft to get a slot but there is little flexibility and what is available might not meet your requirements,” he said.

Airport Access

Tokyo International (Haneda), permits international arrivals only between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. At both airports, parking for business jets is limited and there is a maximum five-day stay. “We do have hope that business aircraft will be given greater access to Haneda on a 24-hour basis when the new runway becomes operational in 2009. It will yield a 40-percent increase in capacity, enough to handle current and anticipated levels of business aviation traffic in the Tokyo region,” Higashiyama said. “However, the business aviation industry has to exert pressure on the government to ensure enough slots are allocated for business aviation aircraft.

“On April 28 JBAA formally submitted to the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau 37 specific requests for deregulation to remove the barriers I’ve mentioned,” Higashiyama said. “The requests involve significant changes in regulations and even government systems, but I believe we are improving the situation step by step.”

Improving Airport Capacity

Reiko Osawa, assistant manager of the aviation sales and marketing department of Kansai Airport, reviewed the services of Kansai Airport. It too has 24-hour operations but only one runway. “A second runway, 13,000 feet long, is under construction,” she said. “It will significantly increase our capacity when it is completed in 2007. We anticipate the new runway will lead to increased business aviation usage, and when it does we are prepared to add an FBO.”

Osawa said Kansai is an ideal stop for international business aircraft because it has five of the 122 world heritage sites designated in Japan and a five-star hotel located on the airport. “We have more than 60 percent of Japan’s national treasures and tourism attractions located in the Kansai area,” she said.

Takaaki Kato, director of the civil aviation administration division, department of planning and promotion, in the Aichi Prefecture government, said the Aichi Prefecture is the undisputed industrial center of Japan and a global center for manufacturing. “Nagoya Airport is only 15 minutes from the downtown business center by car or train and offers advantages that no other airport in Japan can,” he said.

“We have ample slots to accommodate all business aircraft with long-term parking available. The entire CIQ process is located in a single room within a few meters of where you park your aircraft. It is the first time any Japanese airport has done this.

We have a special passenger terminal just for business aviation to maintain passenger privacy,” he concluded.

Misao Nagae, general manager of the international business aircraft enterprise division and overseas operations program at Nakanihon Air Services, expanded on Kato’s comments and said that since the airport was rededicated to business aviation last February, more than 30 international business aircraft have landed.

Masaaki Kanda, governor of Japan’s Aichi Prefecture, said that Toyota’s International Division is moving its headquarters from Tokyo to Nagoya. He added, “We hope that other Japanese companies will see what Toyota is doing and recognize the benefits of operating business aircraft.”

“We are new to business aviation and are quite pleased that we are already drawing business aircraft,” Nagae said. “We are the first airport in Japan to focus on becoming more convenient to the business traveler and flight crewmembers,” he said. “We have an exclusive ramp area with direct, close access to CIQ. What that means to the traveler is that from the time you get out of the car until you’re getting into your aircraft can be as little as 15 minutes. That’s unheard of in Japan; it can take an hour or more elsewhere. We are doing everything we can to make Nagoya the first choice of all business aircraft operators coming to Japan.”