Kitplane maker Sonex Aircraft aims to bring homebuilt aircraft culture to China. This week at EAA AirVenture, the Oshkosh, Wis.-based company announced it has partnered with Chinese firm Uniworld and is set to promote its line of aircraft kits and AeroConversion products in the Asian nation. To do this, it has adopted a multi-tier strategy consisting of governmental advocacy, participation in the Chinese training infrastructure for GA pilots and technicians and stoking the growth of its recreational aviation enthusiast base.
Beijing Aviation Technology (BAT) has been selected as a franchisee of the Sonex brand, with Uniworld’s Francis Chao named as director of Sonex operations in China. “Sonex Aircraft is under no illusion that expanding business in China will be a fast or easy process,” said Sonex general manager Mark Schaible. “It is a complex place for Western companies to do business, and aviation in China presents its own unique and complex challenges; however, we are confident that Sonex is positioned for success with Francis Chao and Uniworld/BAT as our teammate.”
BAT has established a new aviation education center in Beijing featuring Sonex and flight simulator manufacturer Precision Flight Controls. It includes workshop space for seminars and aircraft projects with the goal of educating the Chinese public, entrepreneurs and government officials about general aviation, as well as living quarters and offices for international aviation professionals who wish to share their knowledge and experience with center visitors.
The companies plan to lobby the Chinese Civil Aviation Authority (CAAC) to increase recreational aviation freedom, including construction of amateur-built aircraft, using current FAA regulations as a working template, and to work to establish a dealer and support network throughout the country. “The current aviation infrastructure in China supports training operations primarily for the airlines and military only,” Schaible noted, adding that situation applies to both pilots and mechanics. “For privatized GA to grow and succeed in China, a network of private A&P and flight schools must be established to train the qualified personnel required to support GA, and to become owner/operator consumers of GA products in China." To that end, the company also seeks to obtain approval for the use of kit aircraft in training operations.