Smaller jets’ growth in China business market could be slow

04/04/2014 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:23 AM

Many experts have predicted that smaller business jets will play a large role in China’s business aviation market.

But that may be a long time coming, if it comes at all, said Brian Foley, an aviation consultant with Brian Foley Associates.

China’s preference for larger, heavier and longer-range business jets will remain for the foreseeable future, similar to what happened in the Middle East, Foley said.

That’s not to say that Wichita planemakers, which build small and midsize cabin business aircraft, won’t sell planes to China.

“There will always be a need for small and midsize” business aircraft, Foley said. “But the majority of aircraft purchased for China has been and will continue to be the big cabin jets.”

Currently, 198 business jets operate in mainland China, including 63 percent heavy jets, 25 percent medium jets and 12 percent light jets, Foley said.

The figures seem lopsided compared to the worldwide average of 26 percent heavy jets, 34 percent medium jets and 40 percent light jets, he said.

China’s fleet resembles the Middle East’s mix.

“There are important reasons for this – including culture, politics, geography, trade and infrastructure – whose effects will be long-lasting,” Foley said.

Like the Middle East, China is faced with long internal distances and a heavy international travel need, both of which require larger aircraft.

For those reasons, China’s medium and light fleet shouldn’t be expected to “catch up” to its larger fleet.

“More likely, the present mix will remain relatively constant even as the total fleet size increases,” Foley said.

Still, China has a need to build its infrastructure within the country.

“By all means, there will be a need for aircraft like the King Air,” Foley said.

The good news is that the size of China’s business jet fleet has more than doubled over the past three years.

It’s expected to double again over the next five years.

That means a doubling of small, medium and large jets.

“But they will go up in proportion,” Foley said.

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