It could be many years before China’s regulations on airspace relax to allows more free movements of private jets, according to Bjorn Naf, CEO of Hong Kong based Metrojet who manage about a third of HK’s 110 business jets. Naf was speaking to the South China Morning Post. “Business and private aviation is not as flexible in China as the rest of the world. Some of the beauty of owning a private jet will disappear in Asia. There’s a lot of complexity of running the operation which you don’t have in the US or Europe,” he says.

Chinese airspace is still controlled by the military, and it is expected to take many years for this to change and more free movement of business jets to be allowed. However, sales of business jets to the Country and Asia as a whole continue to rise, with forecasters predicting sales of 1,700 jets to Asia in the next 10 years. That’s a new jet every three days. And every one of these jets needs to be piloted, staffed, maintained and managed, which brings about another problem – lack of talent. 1,700 jets equates to the need for around 14,000 skilled employees, employees that Asia simply doesn’t have.

“But where are these people? It’s not going to happen,” says Bjorn Naf. “Or it’s happening by bringing international people from the US, Europe and Australia and you have to pay them a fortune.” It is expected that in order the persuade a Western pilot to move to China, employers would need to be willing to triple their salary and provide other benefits. This will substantially push up the cost of running a private jet in Asia, especially compared to Europe and the US.

The bottom line is, whilst China and Asia will experience large growth in business jets, the challenge to make it work is long term. To tackle the issue of lack of talent, companies will need to work with Universities and education establishments in order to provide training and support. Then, the challenge would be to ensure they stay within Asia, as opposed to taking their skills elsewhere to larger markets. And the issues surrounding air space could take many years to fully resolve also. If anything, things seem to be heading in the wrong direction for business jets in China, for example in Shanghai slot availability for business jets has been curtailed to just two per hour. 

And much of the unwillingness to cater for private jets feeds back to the issue of skilled personnel, Chinese airports simply do not have the people on the ground able to handle a private jet. They don’t have enough skilled bodies on the ground, nobody knows how to manage, maintain and dispatch a private jet – it’s not the same as a 747,” says Naf.

The full interview with Bjorn Naf can be found with the original South China Morning Post Article.