The market for private jets in China has grown to over one trillion yuan (US$154.56 billion) in just over a decade, though a lack of qualified pilots and strict airspace regulations are challenges to further growth in the sector, the weekly Oriental Outlook reports.
Gui Yue, a marketing executive at Aviatrade Asia, said China's potential is reflected in the fact that one sixth of the country's 930,000 millionaires (average worth of ten million yuan (US$1.55 million) and above) told the Shanghai-based Hurun Report they plan to purchase a private jet.
After the government lifted restrictions on private jets in the late 1980s, demand began emerging from the Chinese operations of global companies in the 1990s as it was difficult for foreign jets to fly in China, according to Liao Xuefeng of Bombardier China.
Eyeing this business opportunity at that time, Hainan Airlines acquired two Bombardier jets to lease to foreign companies in China, Liao said.
The first Chinese citizen to lease a business jet, according to Guan Chao, general manager of a local private jet company, was believed to have been Sir Run Run Shaw, co-founder and former chairman of Hong Kong broadcasting network TVB, when he chartered a Boeing 737 from Air China for trips to the mainland from the early 1990s.
Meanwhile, Zhang Yao, chairman of the Broad Group, was the first Chinese businessman to own a private jet.
After a 1996 snowstorm delayed his trip on a commercial flight from Beijing to Changsha, where his company is based, Zhang bought his first jet in 1997. Ten years later Zhang said that his days of flying private jets have ended due to his concern for the environment, as "a 3,000-kilometer flight from Beijing to Changsha emits carbon dioxide equivalent to the amount absorbed by eight trees over 60 years."
The sector was further boosted after a more detailed aviation regulation was introduced in 2005 and led to the entry of major global jet companies, including Gulfstream and Bombardier, to China.
Chinese companies purchased more of this type of aircraft after the 2008 global financial crisis dragged down jet prices. Aviation Industry Corporation of China even bought two companies in this sector, Teledyne Continental Motors and Cirrus Aviation.
China's proposal last November to reform its low-altitude airspace regulations in the next five to ten years has also encouraged businesses such as aircraft manufacturers and pilot schools to invest in the mainland market.
Tommy Yu, president of the east China region at Jetone Academy, said owners ordering hundreds of private jets are having difficulties finding pilots, while Chinese regulators estimate that 9,000 or more pilots will be needed by 2015, as the number of private jets increases by 150 annually.
Founded in 2003, Jetone has already set up schools across China after it entered Asia in 2010.
Another new player in the market is China's wealthiest village, Huaxi, which has bought two helicopters, with an additional eight aircraft on order. While it costs 30,000 yuan (US$4,637) per hour to fly the helicopters used to develop local tourism, Chinese media reported that the village also has plans to lease out the aircraft.


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