China’s aviation authorities started to allow helicopters to fly in low-altitude airspace last week, as a first step toward opening more access for private aircraft, state media have reported. The first tests, planned to last two months, involve four helicopters, flown by eight pilots from Shanghai-based Zhengyang Investment Group (a company the state media describe as a player in general aviation). They began to fly above the tourist island of Hainan, at approximately 3,000 feet agl. The flights will “collect data” for low-altitude flying and test ATC’s response to emergencies. Under the current procedure, every private flight needs approval, a process that can take from one to seven days. Chinese authorities now say they want to open airspace to promote the general aviation sector, including private airplanes. There are only 900 aircraft flying in China in the general aviation segment. A $2 billion market, general aviation in China is expected to grow by 15 percent annually through 2020.