Despite a broader slowdown in purchases of ultra-luxury vehicles, tight (yet slowly loosening) government restrictions on airspace, and the costly bureaucratic nightmare that is applying for flight permission, many of the world’s top business jet producers see China as a future goldmine in an otherwise limping global industry. Compared to the more than 10,000 private jets currently registered in the United States, China only has around 100 legally registered planes (although the actual number is expected to be much higher), and just as China’s newly wealthy have spent the last several years stocking up on everything from Ferraris to Ferrettis, business jet producers are no doubt pleased to see that this group is, indeed, taking to the air in rising numbers.
According to figures released this week, Shanghai has seen something of a private jet boom in the past year, with Pudong and Hongqiao airports handling 2,700 private jets in the first eight months of 2012, a 43 percent rise in traffic year-over-year. As George Lu of the Shanghai Hawker Pacific Business Aviation Service Center told a press conference this week, "More Chinese are buying business jets as the mainland market has entered a rapid growth period, just as that of the civil aviation market in the country 10 years ago."
Looking to follow the lead of Hawker Beechcraft and Bombardier, this week the French business jet maker Dassault Falcon launched its maintenance center in Shanghai, which will allow all Dassault aircraft to be serviced and repaired in Shanghai. (Currently, they must travel to Singapore for these services.) As Jing Daily noted last year, along with government regulations and red tape, one of the areas holding back the development of China's private jet market is a dearth of qualified service and repair personnel and maintenance facilities. However, major manufacturers are beefing up their investments in this arena, as are charter jet providers like Beijing's Deer Jet, which built China's largest private jet hangar in June 2011.
To better serve the growing industry and cope with rising traffic, Shanghai Daily noted this week that Pudong International Airport plans to build a second business aviation base. This is probably a smart idea, considering Shanghai's airports handled one-third of the total private aviation traffic in mainland China last year. In total, the city's two airports handled 3,400 private jets in 2011, a number that's set to surpass 4,000 by the end of this year.