China's civil aviation industry "developing too fast", say authorities

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has warned that the country's air transport industry is developing "too fast" and that there is a "huge pressure to ensure safety", it said.

Passenger and cargo movement has increased by nearly 20 per cent year-on-year, about 6 per cent above forecast. The aircraft growth between 1996 and 2000 was 111 and between 2001 and 2005, 336.

In the first six months of 2007, 56 more aircraft have been added. It is estimated that the net increase between 2006 and 2010 will hit a record 725.

Ten new airlines are in the pipeline waiting approval, in addition to six private carriers and four that started operations in June 2005. But China simply doesn't have enough qualified personnel, airports and airspace.

Although China has experienced no major accidents in the past 33 months, the CAAC is afraid of a repeat of the period between 1990 and 1993. There were nine air accidents between 1992 and 1994, mainly because growth had been too rapid for the industry to cope with flight safety, the CAAC says.

As a safety measure, the administration has cut daily flights in and out of the Beijing International Airport by 48 since 15 August, and said it will not accept applications for new airlines before 2010.

Following the Taiwan-based China Airlines 737-800 aircraft bursting into flames on landing at Okinawa in Japan on 20 August, the administration issued two new orders in a week on passenger safety.