Two weeks ago, a conference and exhibition on private jets was held in Shanghai. This event was widely reported by the media, which put the spotlight on China’s business jet market.
According to these articles, successful Chinese businessmen are more and more interested in acquiring private aircrafts, with a particularly high demand for the most luxurious ones.
However, as noted by Joe Sharkey1, these jets are not often seen in Chinese skies, but instead sit on tarmacs, due to tight control from the government. It is not easy, even for the richest tycoons, to make their latest Gulfstream fly because air transportation is under strict military supervision.
Although these planes are presented as business tools, they should rather be considered expensive toys. China has already built adequate transport infrastructure (airports, high speed train networks) that make these business planes unnecessary. Moreover, virtual technology makes the use of private planes unnecessary. These jets are often bought to reflect the success of the owner; they are more symbol of social status than a means of transportation.
Still, it seems that China will have to relax airspace transport regulations (several provinces have already started this process)2 because of the rising demand for private jets, especially from members of the upper-middle class who are passionate aboutplanes. Although the media focuses mainly on Chinese tycoons’ luxury jets, it is easy to imagine that many others will want to learn how to pilot small planes by themselves, if only for leisure.
The USA and then Europe had to adapt their infrastructure to these aviation aficionados by opening small private use airports. Some of the most passionate amateur pilots even chose to live in fly-in communities where they could park their small jet next to their house3. With the development of private aviation in China, similar projects may soon start there as well.
- Joe Sharkey (2014, April 15). Rich Chinese flaunt success with big luxury jets. The International New York Times, p.16
- Lan Xinzhen (2014, March 3). Up, up and away. Beijing Review. Retreived April 20, 2014 from http://www.bjreview.com.cn/business/txt/2014-03/03/content_600495.htm
- Judith S. Wordsworth (2011, September). European residential airparks in the context of local sustainable rural development. European digital landscape. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from http://www.euroga.org/system/1/assets/files/000/000/181/181/6b436e72f/original/European_Airparks_and_Local_Sustainable_Development.pdf