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To make the maximum economic use of business jets- every country requires the right infrastructure. The number of business jets is fast increasing in China- and aircraft owners and operators anticipate more flexibility to operate efficiently.

Mike Vines   |   1st September 2011
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As the business jet fleet grows in China- so does the support network.

To make the maximum economic use of business jets- every country requires the right infrastructure. The number of business jets is fast increasing in China- and aircraft owners and operators anticipate more flexibility to operate efficiently.

To achieve multiple trips in a day requires airports to be near to where people want to visit- more direct routing (resulting in shorter flights) and more ground support in the shape of specialist Fixed Base Operators (FBO) and Maintenance- Repair and Overhaul (MRO) companies. Progress is slow- but until two years ago- there were less than 100 aircraft based in China. Now with the number rapidly approaching 200- many specialist companies are starting to talk about expansion plans within China- and some are already in place.

According to one Asia-based MRO executive- adding Business Aviation services is either driven by the promise of an emerging market or by the actual fleet-growth that demands more local services in a particular country or region.

Chinese B-Registered aircraft have a distinct advantage over foreign-registered ones that operate in China (Hong Kong and Macau-registered aircraft are regarded as foreign)- and they can operate into more airports (around 200- plus some military airfields) providing maximum operational flexibility. Experts say that B-Registered aircraft pay far less for permits and permissions- receive them much quicker- have fewer issues with slot restrictions and also get more direct routing.

It takes around three working days for foreign-registered aircraft to gain over-flight permits and five days for landing permits (a lot better than a couple of years ago) depending on the destination within China. B-Registered aircraft can get them within hours.

One source in the region commented that routing for foreign aircraft is strict and indirect- adding time and fuel to a trip - but this will improve as more civilian airspace becomes available.

Beijing rumors
Getting Business Aviation slots at Beijing Capital International Airport gets increasingly difficult as the airport gets busier. Consequently it is rumored that an airport to the south of Beijing is being considered as China’s first specialist Business Aviation-only airport.

The search is also on to open business jet FBOs and MROs at existing civil or ex-military airports across China- however. China’s largest business jet operator DeerJet is close to opening a new FBO at Beijing Capital Airport- where the only current FBO is operated by CJet. DeerJet has already opened what it describes as the “largest business jet hangar in China” there- promising more facilities in airports across China (Hangzhou- Xi'an and Changsha).

DeerJet opened its first FBO at Terminal B in Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport late last year- and is planning to open more in other parts of the country. Meanwhile- China’s Minsheng Financial Leasing Co. Ltd with 100 business jets on order for its clients- is currently looking for suitable airports in Beijing- Shanghai and Guangzhou Province for Business Aviation operations.

China-registered BAA Ltd.- (best known for its BAA Jet Management company in Hong Kong)- is building its own maintenance and FBO network across China. This is for the benefit of its managed fleet and third parties. Its main maintenance facility is at Tianjin Airport located in the Duty Free Tax Free Zone. It also has land available at Shenzhen Airport.

Shenzhen’s proximity to Hong Kong means that passengers can be dropped off and aircraft conveniently repositioned to Shenzhen for parking (Hong Kong fuel is twice the price- and taxes and charges are much higher).

Some organizations have started business jet maintenance facilities in mainland China- while more companies and joint ventures await their CAAC Part 145 Approvals. The object is to offer MRO services much closer to customers. At the moment many aircraft types are serviced at Hong Kong- or further afield- while Aircraft on Ground (AOG) incidents are often fixed by specialist technical teams flown in from neighboring countries.

Aircraft Service Centers
Probably the most high profile FBO/MRO is Shanghai Hawker Pacific Business Aviation Service Centre- opened last year at Hongqiao International Airport. The joint venture between Australia’s Hawker Pacific and the Shanghai Airport Authority is also a Dassault Falcon Jet and Hawker Beechcraft Authorized Service Center. The company supports AOG operations using mobile repair teams from its other operations in Asia.

Tianjin-based newly-formed ExecuJet Haite Aviation Services is also interested in opening up two FBOs in China according to Graeme Duckworth- MD of ExecuJet Asia. Maintenance is offered on a limited basis at the moment (including minor maintenance on Bombardier Global Express- Challengers and Embraer aircraft)- with a representative based at Beijing Capital Airport to cover AOG incidents. Technicians are flown in from ExecuJet’s Kuala Lumpur facility.

Duckworth revealed- “We’ve got people on specific type maintenance training at the moment in the U.S. for a 6-000 square meter maintenance facility at Tianjin under construction.” (The company is currently operating from a temporary facility.)

STAECO of Jinan- a long-standing maintenance provider to Bombardier’s CRJ family of commercial airliners is now licensed on Challenger 604 and 605s- which is expected to extend to other Bombardier models within the coming months. By the end of 2011- Bombardier will have invested nearly $500-000 in ground support equipment and added a minimum of 15 factory-trained technicians to bolster its maintenance network in mainland China.

Jet Aviation Hong Kong is now a fully-authorized Dassault Falcon Line Service Center. With the recent approval from the Hong Kong CAD- the facility is authorized to support scheduled and unscheduled maintenance for several Falcon business jet models.

“China has been- by far- our most active market this year”- said a Dassault Falcon Jet spokesman- highlighting the importance of the country to the Business Aviation community. “We're not only preparing for the influx of more of our jets- but transient aircraft movements have increased dramatically.”

Dassault Falcon has the Authorized Service Center at Jet Aviation’s facility in Hong Kong and another at the Shanghai Hawker Pacific Business Aviation Service Center. “At each site- we have a team to handle AOG or other situations. We're evaluating adding an Authorized Service Center in Beijing- too.”

Metrojet’s Hong Kong maintenance department is currently a fully-certified Repair Station with approvals from the Hong Kong CAD- China- U.S.A.- Macau- Taiwan- Malaysia- Bermuda- Canada- Isle of Man- and Cayman Islands. Metrojet is a fully-authorized Gulfstream Warranty Repair Facility as well as an authorized Bombardier Aircraft Service Facility. Its Avionics and Airframe engineers have ratings on business jets from the majority of OEMs.

Hong Kong holds more than $40 million in Gulfstream parts inventory for the region. Gulfstream has an Authorized Warranty Repair facility at Metrojet in Hong Kong and Jet Aviation in Singapore.

The Hawker Beechcraft Corporation (HBC) has appointed Hawker Pacific (the companies are not related) as an Authorized Service Center (ASC) in Shanghai- covering Hawker 4000 and Hawker 125-series aircraft. Hong Kong’s Metrojet is also an ASC covering the same aircraft types.

Steve Porte- Vice President at Hawker Beechcraft International Support- points to the talk of a new business airport south of Beijing- and potential developments at Tianjin- commenting that once clarified a decision will be made on where to position a new HBC Service Center.

“We feel that for the foreseeable future the Hawker Pacific facility at Shanghai and Metrojet in Hong Kong will probably cover the Chinese market adequately until the fleet grows-” he said. “Once the Shanghai facility is fully-staffed and functional- it will join the support team.”

Bombardier is not lacking within the region- and has expanded its aftermarket services in China with a $30 million investment in a new Regional Sales Office in Hong Kong’s Citygate complex and a new parts depot at Hong Kong International Airport - the first phase of a much broader strategy to establish a support network centered in China- supported by satellite facilities throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

The Hong Kong parts depot is managed by Metrojet- which is also a Bombardier Authorized Service Facility- and will extend the reach of the company’s existing parts facilities in Beijing- Singapore- Narita and Sydney.

Metrojet is also a Cessna Citation Service Center for Citation XLS and XLS+ models and is expected to gain authorizations on the remainder of the Citation product line- bringing Cessna into play within the region too.

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