China's Rich Help Private Jet Market Take Flight

Airplane makers are rushing to fill that demand.

But some improvements have been made and others are in the pipeline that are expected to boost nonmilitary aviation in China and ease pressure on crowded flight paths, even if not directly aimed at private jets.

Several years ago, applications for flight permits had to be submitted at least a week in advance to civil aviation authorities. Now, approval takes one to three days, and in some cases as little as a few hours.

Under proposed new guidelines, reported by state media late last year, aircraft flying up to 4,000 meters would no longer need to wait for approval as long as they file a flight plan in advance. Aircraft flying at low altitudes - 1,000 meters or less_ will not need to file any paperwork at all.

A trial of the new guidelines began in January, when authorities allowed four helicopters to fly at low altitudes over the southern island of Hainan, a popular tourist destination. Low-altitude trials will be expanded to other areas around the country.

Despite the hurdles, industry observers believe the only way is up for sales as corporations and the rich realize private jets are more of a tool than a toy.

"Boardroom folks are saying we have a chance to use a business tool to reach clients and factories. On a single day we can go to multiple locations and have productivity gains," Firestone said.

"A few years ago they were saying: Hey, I have a private jet. I can go on vacation to Koh Samui" in Thailand.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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