China's rich yearn to fly for a hobby

Thu Nov 15, 2012 8:18am EST
 
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By Alison Leung

ZHUHAI, China (Reuters) - Wealthy Chinese are itching to take up flying as a hobby, drawing crowds to an air show in the southern city of Zhuhai this week, but high taxes and military controls on airspace are grounding the aviation industry's hopes of a sales boom.

Mongolian coal mine boss John Zhang, aged 39, is aware of restrictions on using private planes in China for now, but said he still wanted to buy one to take his family up for pleasure.

"Flying is my childhood dream and this is a gift to myself," said Zhang, pointing to a white Cirrus SR20, worth about $320,000 before tax.

"I probably will get a pilot license in three months as I plan to put aside everything and be fully devoted to training," he told Reuters at the air show on Thursday.

Zhang's personal dream, and the desire felt by many others to take up a hobby which has long been popular in the United States, ought to provide a boost to the aerospace industry.

The country's aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Administration of China, estimates that about 1,000 general aircraft will be delivered to China from 2011 to 2015.

That is a fraction of the potential demand if the world's second largest economy opens up its skies to ordinary citizens.

With 310 million people, the United States had about 230,000 business-to-general aviation aircraft at the end of last year, while China with a population of 1.3 billion had about 1,100.   Continued...