China eases control over domestic airspace

BEIJING (AFP) - Private fliers in China will no longer need to get military approval for some flights, the government has said, potentially relaxing its tight grip on the country's airspace.

From next month, most general aviation flights - which include flight training, private flying and crop-dusting, but not scheduled commercial aviation - will only need to submit their plans to civil aviation authorities, according to a government document.

But the extent of the relaxation was not fully clear, as the joint statement by the Civil Aviation Administration and the People's Liberation Army general staff headquarters excluded flights in "banned airspace", without providing a definition.

Chinese airspace has to date been controlled by the military and only open to private fliers who pass through a complex approval system.

Violators risk fines of 10,000 yuan (S$2,040) to 100,000 yuan for taking to the air illegally.

Loosening controls would be expected to boost the growing general aviation market, benefiting a broad range of industry players including private jet makers, navigation device producers and airport equipment manufacturers, the state-run China Securities Journal said on Wednesday.

China has an estimated one million dollar millionaires as a result of its economic boom, but is said to have only around 2,000 private aircraft owners, far fewer than countries such as the United States.