OFFERING INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS JETS A NEW HOME Since opening, ZUH has always operated well below its design capacity. A 66,000‑square‑metre air show centre next to the airport stands empty most of the year and could house up to 50 business jets. Even 2015’s record‑high passenger and cargo traffic is less than 50 per cent of capacity. Airport management is always looking for ways to utilise this spare capacity. One idea, developed in consultation with the Zhuhai‑Hong Kong Airport Management Company, is to receive Hong Kong’s overflow of international business jets. Hong Kong International Airport handles more than 1,100 commercial flights daily. With fewer than 70 parking slots for business jets and even fewer landing slots, finding space for the private jets based there is often difficult, not to mention jet traffic in and out. With this new proposal, aircrafts would be able to land and offload passengers in Zhuhai instead of waiting hours for undesirable slots in Hong Kong. With the proper customs facilities in place, a 20‑minute helicopter route then could be set up between Zhuhai and Hong Kong’s Central district. ZUH has already submitted this proposal to the regulatory authorities in Beijing. While the cost of landing and parking in Zhuhai is cheaper than in Hong Kong, there is a compensation and administration fee of US$3,800 every time a non ‑mainland‑Chinese aircraft crosses its airspace. The Asian aviation industry is lobbying for this fee to be scrapped in order to make the new proposal more attractive.
TRAINING MORE PILOTS TO MEET CHINA’S GROWING DEMAND
Another proposal is to use the airport as a civil airline pilot flight training facility for Pegasus Flight Academy (China) (PFA). This Sino‑foreign joint venture would involve an investment of US$80 million. The Asian Development Assistance Board and the Sino‑Foreign Aviation Education Associates Ltd of Hong Kong are currently in negotiations with the Zhuhai Aviation Industrial Park, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), local aviation authorities and Chinese and foreign investors. According to its website, “Pegasus [International Resources] has become the largest NOVEMBER 2016
single provider of pilots to China with its ab initio training and flight training services,” including flight training, career pilot development, equipment and crew leasing, business aircraft maintenance, components repair and aviation consulting. The PFA would initially matriculate 120 students and grow to 400 over five years. Captain John Bent, former manager of the Cathay Pacific/ Dragonair Flight School in Hong Kong, is slated to be Director of Strategic Training. Currently, the mainland’s only pilot‑training facility is located in Guanghan, Sichuan. The school graduates 800 civil airline pilots a year with similar numbers trained at flight schools in Australia, Canada and the United States licensed by CAAC. With industry estimates pegging the demand for new pilots at around 2,000 a year, the growth of China’s aviation sector is the fastest in the world. Zhuhai airport is in an excellent location, in the Pearl River, home to one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Domestic and foreign tourism in the region are booming; it is next to Macao, Asia’s gambling capital. Its challenge in the years ahead are to make best use of this location and the business opportunities it brings – while respecting its four neighbouring competitors. It must find the right balance of competition and complementarity.