Illegal Flights Cause Confusion in China’s Skies

August 18, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Posted in Aviation Law Current Event | Leave a comment

by Sara M. Langston with the blog faculty

Source: TIME

It was not until 2003, when the General Aviation Flight Control Ordinance was issued, that Chinese individuals and private companies were even allowed to own private aircraft. China now has about 200 aircraft in private hands, according to some estimates — impossibly low when compared to the U.S., where the General Aviation Manufacturers Association estimates that there are some 231,000 privately owned airplanes. How many of China’s private fleet are airborne on a regular basis remains unclear. Currently, private-aircraft owners need to jump through a myriad of regulatory hoops if they want to fly their planes or helicopters. Would-be flyers need to apply to several different local and national ministries and departments to get the appropriate licenses and must submit detailed flight plans to the local air-traffic-control department at least seven working days in advance.

Rather than wade through this bureaucratic minefield, some simply choose to fly “off the grid” and not submit flight plans or check in with nearby air-traffic controllers before taking off. Though it’s illegal, flying under the radar has a distinct advantage: according to China’s civil-aviation laws, the fine for illegal flying is 10,000 to 100,000 renminbi, while an application for official flight-path approval can cost anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 renminbi. Many choose to simply pay the fine, but their flights can cause pandemonium when the planes crop up on airport radar screens. In April, some flights into Shanghai were briefly diverted to other nearby cities when an unregistered helicopter strayed into the city’s airspace…more

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