Last year Avion Pacific celebrated its 20th anniversary at the ABACE show in Shanghai, and since then the company has performed even better than company founder Wu Zhengdong expected. “Last year was the best ever for us,” he said.
Avion Pacific, headquartered in Shenzhen, sold seven Sikorsky S-92 and nine S-76D helicopters and half a dozen Beechcraft King Airs last year. Deliveries of the helicopters will take place this year.
Eight of the S-76s are slated for China government use and one for a VIP customer. Six of the S-92s will enter oil-and-gas industry service while one was purchased by a VIP customer. In January Avion Pacific sold an MD Helicopters MD500E to Shandong Qi Xiang General Aviation, with delivery scheduled for the second quarter. Avion Pacific is the sole distributor for MD Helicopters in China and is displaying an MD902 on the static display outside of its ABACE chalet.
Wu was introduced to aviation after graduating from university 31 years ago and going to work for what eventually became China’s CAAC. Now Avion Pacific employs 50 people and serves a variety of aviation segments in China with a strong focus on utility helicopters. “We’ve spent 20 years trying to create this,” Wu said, “and I’m doing everything I can to push the envelope.”
There remain many bottlenecks that constrain growth of aviation in China, he added. One of the most difficult is taxes charged for imported aircraft, which include 17 percent VAT and 5 percent customs fees, for a total of 23 percent of the cost of the aircraft, whether new or used.
Another issue is the lack of suitable airports for general aviation operations. “We need more airports,” he said, and while change is taking place, progress is slow.
Unlike in countries where general aviation is more accepted, in China when there are two or three airplanes on approach, controllers say that their airport is very busy, he said. Controllers are used to huge separation distances between airplanes. “They are always very safety conscious.”
The en route air traffic system remains bound by conventions that favor point-to-point travel on well-established routes in an environment where airspace is controlled by the military. Improvements to the air traffic control system tend to be done to these routes first, and there is thus little incentive or pressure to open up other airspace to off-airways general aviation traffic, because the cost would be too high, he explained. One solution to this problem is creation of local air traffic control service centers that will monitor general aviation traffic and remove that burden from the military controllers.
Avion Pacific (here in Chalet 4), is already a large company by Chinese aviation standards, with offices throughout China and services that include aircraft sales and distribution, consulting, flight services, parts distribution, charter brokering, leasing and financing and helicopter training and support. Wu said he plans to add aircraft management for King Airs followed by jet management services, as well as full-service maintenance, repair and overhaul services and flight training. “We want to offer a total solution,” he said. “There is a lot we can do for aviation. I have a passion for it.”