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China Operators Survey

At last- the long-promised tides of Chinese business jet orders have started to mature into real aircraft arriving in the People’s Republic of China. New business jet management companies are emerging- and established ones are expanding to meet the demands of both corporations and private owners.

Mike Vines   |   1st September 2011
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A review of the aircraft operators based in Mainland China- Hong Kong and Macau

By Mike Vines & Jason Zhang

At last- the long-promised tides of Chinese business jet orders have started to mature into real aircraft arriving in the People’s Republic of China. New business jet management companies are emerging- and established ones are expanding to meet the demands of both corporations and private owners.

China’s Minsheng Financial Leasing Co. (MSFL) recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for up to 20 Embraer executive jets in July and for 50 Gulfstreams a couple of months before that. The company had a 40-aircraft backlog prior to these announcements and is imminently planning to place an additional order for its first batch of 20 VIP-equipped helicopters from an as-yet undisclosed western manufacturer.

In terms of raw fleet numbers- in January this year there were 131 business jets on the three combined registers but as of August 1 the number stood at 163 (according to New York-based JETNET LLC).

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) has also entered the market- and earlier this year through its ICBC Financial Leasing arm announced it had signed an $8 billion MoU with Bombardier covering the company and its Business Aviation and commercial customers.

Business Aviation executives are reassessing their business plans as more orders are announced. Even forecasts from last year predicting 400-500 aircraft on the combined registers within five years now look conservative. Some within the industry believe the number could be double.

In addition to all of this positive news- enlightened Chinese Government legislation now allows private companies to apply independently for an Air Operators’ Certificate (AOC)- and 5-10 of these could be issued annually. Previously all China-registered business jets had to be operated through- or affiliated with a mainland China airline’s AOC- which slowed the effective use of business jets in the greater China region.

Given the developments- there can be little wonder that the aircraft management companies are flourishing. Following is a list of Business Aviation operators in Mainland China- Hong Kong and Macau with brief background detail for each.

Mainland China Operators (affiliated to Chinese commercial airlines):

Air China is China’s national air carrier- and also offers a VIP business aviation wing. For more information on Air China- refer to the interview at the end of this article.

DeerJet: China and Asia’s largest and oldest business jet operator DeerJet (affiliated to Hainan Airlines Group) continues to expand fast- already owning 21 business jets and managing another 19. According to Boeing- DeerJet took delivery of its third BBJ (of four on order) on July 15th.

Last year DeerJet signed a preferred charter partner agreement with Switzerland-based Fly Comlux (the largest operator of Airbus Corporate Jets). Together they will develop VIP charter markets in Asia- Central Asia and Europe.

Mainland China Operators (not affiliated to Chinese commercial airlines):

BAA Ltd: Launched in 2006- BAA Ltd is a China-registered company holding a Chinese B-Register AOC. While probably better known for its BAA Jet Management operation in Hong Kong- the vast majority of BAA’s offices and employees are based in mainland China.

The company operates an all-managed fleet of 24 corporate jets for aircraft owners only. No charter is offered. Another ten aircraft are to be added to the fleet over the remainder of this year- with commitments for an additional seven in 2012. Ninety five percent of the fleet is mainland China B-registered. The remainder is U.S. registered and based in Hong Kong. The company has crews- mechanics and staff based in Hong Kong- Tianjin- Shenzhen- Beijing- Shanghai- Hangzhou and Tianzhu.

China First Mandarin Group (CFMG): Based at Shenyang- CFMG gained one of the first non-affiliated airline AOCs. CFMG is forming a preliminary joint venture with TAG Aviation Asia covering charter- aircraft management and aircraft maintenance. TAG is currently assembling the final pieces of the agreement. CFMG’s present charter operation is named ZYB Lily Jet.

CITIC General Aviation Co. Ltd (CITIC-GA): Founded in 2003 and based at Beijing Capital Airport. CITIC-GA operates aircraft under management on global charters. Parent company CITIC is a global conglomerate owning 44 subsidiaries including banks in Hong Kong- U.S.A.- Canada- Australia and New Zealand. CITIC Offshore Helicopter Co. Ltd. is the largest offshore helicopter operator in Asia.

ExecuJet Haite Aviation Services China Co. Ltd: Announced at the end of 2010- this joint venture between ExecuJet and Tianjin Haite will offer full-service business aircraft maintenance- and eventually aircraft management and charter once it has gained its AOC. The company is in the process of applying for its CAAC Part 145 maintenance certificate. When granted- it plans to apply for a CAAC Part 135 certificate to gain its AOC (and operate Chinese B-registered aircraft) by the third quarter of 2012.

Based at Tianjin Binhai Airport- a 6-000m² maintenance facility is under construction and once the CAAC Part 145 maintenance certificate is gained- the company expects to maintain in excess of 40 business aircraft annually.

Hong Kong Business Aircraft operators:

Asia Jet: The Asia Jet-owned fleet of business jets are crewed- operated and dispatched by Metrojet among other partners- but all flight bookings are taken by Asia Jet. Its fleet of seven aircraft will be joined by two further aircraft scheduled for delivery in the third quarter of 2012.

Asia Jet offers normal ad hoc charter and fractional leasing programs- and also a dedicated Jet Card Member program consisting of three categories: $100-000- $250-000 and $500-000. The company sees the lowest Jet Card category more as an introductory offer- while the $250-000 and $500-000 clients receive discounts of 5.5% and 7.5% respectively off their flying hours. Firm quotes are given before each flight - a distinct advantage since complex Asian over-flight permission fees make no two trips the same. (This is also true of landing permits to different countries and different cities.) Jet Card Members can also access Metrojet’s fleet of 20 jets.

Hong Kong Jet: Founded in 2009- Hong Kong Jet is supported by HNA/Deer Jet Group. Hong Kong Jet has recently undergone management changes and the company’s first aircraft- a G550- is due to arrive shortly. The company’s focus is international charter from Hong Kong.

Jet Aviation Asia: Currently there are 13 managed aircraft based at Jet Aviation Asia’s Hong Kong facility. Its charter department maintains a 24-hours- seven days a week operation and holds its own AOC.

Metrojet: Hong Kong-based Metrojet currently operates a fleet of over 20 business jets in the region. The company- part of the Kadoorie Group- is a leading operator and maintenance provider of business jets in the region- and was established in 1995. Furthermore- Metrojet and Taj Air of India (part of the Tata Group) are to form a joint venture company offering aircraft maintenance and management services to the growing Indian Business Aviation market.

TAG Aviation Asia: Is a majority-owned subsidiary of TAG Aviation Holding S.A. Its first Airbus ACJ was delivered in May- adding to its Hong Kong-managed business jet fleet (approximately 20 aircraft). The company holds a Hong Kong CAA AOC that already includes several large-capacity business jets among a fleet that has grown steadily since TAG Asia was formed in 2006.

Macau Business Aircraft operators:

Jet Asia: Based in Macau- Jet Asia has operated a fleet of business jets since 1995 offering aircraft charter- aircraft management and related services. Today it operates 11 aircraft. The company bases aircraft at other business centers around the region including Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.

Macau Jet International: Provides business jet charter with a pair of Falcon 2000s and a Falcon 900 from Macau International Airport and Hong Kong.

Read more about: Business Aviation in China | Deer Jet

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