China Operations Still Challenging, but Improving

 - January 25, 2013, 9:22 AM

In an educational session yesterday afternoon at NBAA’s Schedulers & Dispatchers conference in San Antonio, Universal Weather & Aviation’s delta team lead John Perry and Sheng (Jimmy) Young, the company’s managing director for China, led their audience through navigating the details needed to operate successfully in the growing Chinese market.

While private aviation flights to the country once faced severe bureaucratic hurdles, that situation is easing as China becomes more familiar with the notion of private aircraft. Perry ticked off the required documentation needed to obtain the correct visa and to request a flight and landing permit. He noted that advanced submission of the document does not guarantee earlier approval. In fact, it’s common for operators to receive confirmation of their request only a day or two before the scheduled flight. He cautioned that changes to the flight plan should be avoided if at all possible, as Chinese authorities to do not look upon them favorably.

Most of China’s major international airports operate under a slot system for landing and once operators receive permission, they should carefully examine the document as the slot that was requested might not be the one that was assigned. In any case, according to Perry, that is the assigned slot and operators should change plans accordingly.

Operating fees in China are very expensive, as the civil aviation authority (CAAC) charges incoming flights a “compensation fee” of approximately $3,000 for entry into the country plus navigation fees of 44 cents per kilometer.

There is currently a handful of FBOs in China, but Young, who is based there, said the infrastructure is improving, with more under development. Hangar space for private aircraft storage is curently very limited at airports, said Young, with most existing hangars used solely for maintenance. If hangar space is available it is expensive. He cautioned that once the crew leaves the aircraft on the ramp, it can be difficult to get permission to return to it, to retrieve an item for example.

Young noted there are cultural differences that flight planners and crews should be aware of, such as local holidays, that might delay or otherwise interfere with operations or even the permitting process itself.

In terms of accommodations, he suggests that passengers and crews stick with the major hotel chains, and that they also stick to drinking bottled water while there. In major cities, catering options are generally good, with western-style food normally available.

Both presenters stressed the need for a good ground handler to help deal with officials and any unplanned situation that might arise.