Chinese aircraft makers are eyeing the general aviation market

China's two state-owned aircraft makers want to make general aviation aircraft. This is not surprising, because the country's flying schools have been importing large numbers of trainer aircraft. At present, Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC) I makes no general aviation aircraft, while AVIC II only has the LE-500 Little Eagle.

To enter what ought to be a captive market, AVIC I has just established a general aviation aircraft department. "We are currently in the study and research phase," says the company's executive VP Hu Wenming.

Even though the biggest market for general aviation aircraft is the USA, which will be AVIC's first target market, the company anticipates that in the long term, Chinese regulators will open up more airspace for general aviation, creating a large Chinese market as well.

He says the fact that AVIC I makes no general aviation aircraft doesn't mean it lacks the capability, as it is AVIC I's first aircraft design unit that designed the LE-500 Little Eagle that AVIC II's Shijiazhuang Aircraft Industries makes at present.

AVIC II president Zhang Hongbiao says AVIC II will bring together subsidiaries Harbin Aircraft and Shijiazhuang Aircraft Industries, to develop regional and general aviation aircraft. While Harbin will design the planes, Shijiazhuang will produce them.

AVIC II subsidiary Hongdu Aviation Industry has capabilities in small agricultural aircraft, so it could also enter into this new alliance, Zhang says. Harbin Aircraft has earlier designed the Harbin Y-12, a 19-seat turboprop that has received EASA and US FAA certification and been exported overseas.