Business aviation consultant Brian Foley, president of Brian Foley Associates, used an intriguing metaphor to explain the issues effecting Chinese business aviation: “Imagine if there was a 22-percent tariff on imported cars, drivers had to ask permission to drive a day in advance and they could drive only to specified cities via a suboptimal route with few services. Driving to a city not on the approved list would require a ‘navigator’ to ride along.”
Automobile salespeople probably wouldn’t sell many cars, “but that’s exactly how the aircraft operational environment is in China today, which isn’t great for selling planes either,” said Foley. Brian Foley Associates recently produced its 10-year Business Jet and Turboprop Delivery Forecast for 2013, which is available directly from the company.
Foley has researched the Asia Pacific region’s sales records and his numbers are in accord with those from analyst Amstat, which showed that there are 176 business jets based in mainland China, and 118 based in Hong Kong. That is just 1.5 percent of the 19,373 business jets in operation worldwide. Many of those aircraft were purchased between 2008 and 2011, when many Chinese individuals and companies were flush with cash.
“It was a conveniently timed mini-rescue for the business aviation industry,” said Foley, “but now it’s starting to slow down. Chinese GDP is almost halved from 2010. Jet manufacturers have now shifted from sales mode to order preservation in China,” he continued.
So, is there potential for renewed growth of business aviation in China? Foley thinks the answer is yes, with a hedge. He believes there will be as many as 900 business jets owned and operated in China (9 percent of future worldwide business jet deliveries) within the next decade. And if the Chinese government can address some of the sticky issues surrounding flight plan filing, route structures and airspace sharing with the military, then it is likely that the decade of 2020-2030 will reflect healthy sales in the region. “A more sustainable market should come, but will take more patience,” said Foley.o