“People in the government need to be convinced that more small aircraft is not necessarily a safety issue in any form,” says Zhang Yue. Ironically, government restrictions may actually be creating a safety issue. Ron Waterman, an FAA Flight Standards Operations Inspector, visited the Shanghai flight school and, while noting the obvious enthusiasm and seriousness of the program, listed in his report “some concerns over the flight training syllabus.” There are no provisions for upper air work, like stall recovery, or for emergency landings. Asked about these gaps, school officials say they just don’t have enough airspace to work in. They say they’ve been talking to the CAAC about getting more—roughly double what they now have—but the request has not yet been decided on.
Gulfstream’s Roger Sperry sees changes ahead: “People here are now beginning to feel okay with the concept of business aviation, meaning they understand that there’s a legitimate role for business aviation in helping the Chinese economy grow.”
China’s western region, for example, accounts for 60 percent of the country and features some of China’s more interesting small cities and areas, which are underserved by the airlines. The potential for tourism, therefore, as well as other business opportunities, remains unexploited. China’s airlines, according to FAA officials in Beijing, would like to help develop the western region mostly through chartered general aviation aircraft. Because of the clearly practical benefits the idea offers, the government has decided to construct some 20 airports throughout the west specifically for general aviation aircraft and helicopters.
But open skies for bizjets? Open doors for buying and importing them? Not yet. The Zhang brothers have certainly shown what’s possible. But the Zhangs are still the exception to the communist rule.