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Beijing seeks sonic boom for aviation industry

BEIJING--The Chinese aviation industry plans to have 170 billion ton-kilometers of air passenger and freight transport by 2020, which is almost three times 2011's number, according to an announcement by the central government Friday.

The Several Opinions of the State Council on Promoting the Development of the Aviation Industry includes 19 items that set the aviation industry's development targets, missions and policies.

Business insiders said they feel encouraged by the first State-level announcement to promote the aviation industry, although the industry's growth has slowed since the end of 2010, said Zou Jianjun, professor at the Civil Aviation Management Institute of China's department of economic management.

“The announcement is a sign that the State wants to encourage the aviation industry,” Zou said.

In 2020, airline services should be available to 89 percent of the Chinese population, according to the announcement.

The transport target can be met by taking advantage of the huge market potential in China, business insiders said.

“China's domestic demand is helping the aviation industry expand continuously,” Tony Tyler, CEO of the International Air Transport Association, said at its annual meeting in Beijing in June.

Domestic airlines are being encouraged by the central government to expand into the international market and offer global services.

The industry should place a priority on opening middle- and long-haul routes, as well as international routes connecting China with South America and Africa.

“International routes might be the industry's main source of growth, since they have seen quicker expansion than domestic ones recently,” Zou said.

Statistics from the Civil Aviation Administration of China showed that Chinese airlines' international routes transported 21.18 million people in 2011, up 9.7 percent from 2010. For domestic routes, the rate of increase was 9.5 percent.

The industry is also responsible for promoting the use of a new air traffic-control system.

The general aviation industry also figured prominently in the announcement. Annual flights are to go from taking up 502,700 hours in 2011 to 2 million hours by 2020.

“China's market for general aviation is large, especially for new services ... such as emergency rescues and business flights,” said Jian Zhuodong, deputy general manager of Zhuhai Helicopter Branch of China Southern Airlines Co. Ltd.

Jian said the company is recruiting more crew members and is preparing to see fast development in the aviation industry in the coming years.

Even so, the industry has several issues it must deal with, Zou warned.

“Airspace, the authority's regulations and the operation of airlines and airports will all affect the development of the aviation industry,” he said.

If the 10 to 20 percent of airspace that is now controlled for government purposes could be opened to civil aviation, the industry would undergo a boom, Zou added. The announcement calls for reforms in the management of airspace.

“Ensuring the full exploration and efficient use of airspace is the purpose of these reforms,” the announcement said.

More airports will be built and large airports will be made into aviation hubs, the announcement said.

The State's announcement also discussed laws and regulations, training and financial support.

“We hope all the items in the announcement will be put into practice by the pertinent departments and players and the 2012 goals for the aviation industry can definitely be achieved,” Zou said.

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