Region VII: Middle East/Asia (MID)

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ABACE2012 Will Be a Catalyst for Business Aviation in Asia

March 12, 2012

NBAA Flight Plan podcast interview with Roger Whyte, NBAA's consultant on China

The gathering of business aviation interests from the U.S. and around the world at Shanghai’s Hongqiao International Airport for the Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (ABACE2012) later this month will mark an important milestone in the development of not only commerce, but industry advocacy efforts as well.

“With ABACE, we do expect that because of the way it’s structured and the people who are coming, the education sessions and the panels, this is going to lead to a much greater understanding of the issues at hand [for business aviation],” predicted Roger Whyte, NBAA’s consultant on China.

That understanding will be furthered by addresses from China’s top two aviation officials. Li Jiaxiang, administrator of the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) and his deputy administrator, Xia Xinghua, will both speak at the conference along with John Pocari, deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation and China’s Minister of Transport, Li Shenglin.

Demonstrating the close cooperation between business and advocacy interests, the keynote address at the ABACE gala March 27th will be Steve Forbes, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes media.

With exhibit space sold out two months in advance of the conference, attendance is expected to exceed 6,000.

“I’m delighted that we have the two top people from CAAC coming along with the Deputy Secretary of Transportation from the U.S. and many other people, both regulators and enablers,” Whyte said. “Everybody will be in the same place at the same time to get together with operators and customers. It will have a catalytic effect on business aviation throughout the region.”

The Chinese interest in furthering general aviation can be traced back to 2008, when a powerful earthquake shook Sichuan Province, measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale. The quake killed more than 69,000 people, injured nearly 375,000 and left 4.8 million homeless.

 “It was a watershed event for general aviation,” Whyte explained. “When they saw how much GA could help with disaster relief – photographic reconnaissance, bringing in relief personnel and vital supplies – that changed attitudes toward GA. They found out there were more effective and cheaper ways to do things.”

The Chinese government also has a strong commitment to safety, said Whyte. Transportation accidents spark “very thorough” investigations and the government is sensitive to public demands for answers. With that in mind, he said, the Chinese are working to adopt rules and regulations that, to an American aviator, might look remarkably familiar.

“A lot of what’s in their regulation is taken almost word-for-word from the US Federal Aviation Regulations,” Whyte said. “[Chinese regulators] looked at what’s out there and decided the FARs had been thought through very well, so why reinvent the wheel? Why try to develop regulations from scratch? So they pretty much took what FAA had and made it their own.”

That gives aviation advocates like NBAA, GAMA and the Chinese Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association familiar ground upon which to build relationships with regulators.

Which leads us back to ABACE2012.

“We’re beyond ‘gingerly exploring’ issues related to Chinese civil aviation,” Whyte remarked.

“Regulators from that region are already several steps beyond that. What they are interested in doing is making sure that business aviation and general aviation can expand and do it in an organized and safe fashion.”