Spurred by China’s continuous economic growth and desire to maintain the country’s strong presence in the international marketplace, China announced that the general aviation sector is now an economic growth pillar of the country’s 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015). As a result, China has eased regulations restricting corporate aircraft ownership by private individuals and companies, and relaxed regulations to permit corporate aircraft to fly in low-altitude airspace. The corporate aircraft industry responded by courting thousands of China’s newly minted millionaires and billionaires. In fact, last week a Chinese Luxury Consumer White Paper suggested that there are 63,500 ultra-high net worth individuals in China.

Corporate conglomerates like General Electric Co. (through its subsidiary GE Capital Corporate Aircraft Finance) and Honeywell International Inc. (through its Aerospace Division) are seizing the opportunity to provide capital, financing and manufacturing expertise -- having recognized the importance of this market and the opportunities to meet today’s and tomorrow’s demands. For instance, industry insiders expect last year’s registration of 132 private aircraft on China’s mainland to grow and surpass 1,000 in ten years.

This, of course, begs a few questions. Who will provide these aircraft? Who will pilot them? Who will provide maintenance? Who will update existing airport infrastructure? To answer some of these very questions, over 150 Chinese and international industry leaders met last week in Shanghai at the Asian Business Aviation Conference. At the conference, 30 corporate aircraft were on display, along with exhibits demonstrating companies’ products and services in the corporate aircraft industry.

Industry experts agree that opportunities in China exist today. Those already in the corporate aviation industry space should look to capitalize on this economic opportunity and bring their unique products and services to a growing China market.

Special thanks to Sullivan & Worcester’s Reggie McKoy, Legal Research and Business Development and Marketing Intern, for assistance in preparing this post.