'My other car is a helicopter'
( 2003-11-17 08:40) (China Daily)
Shanghai businessman Li Linhai is planning his first flight in his new helicopter above the Huangpu River.
Li has achieved a long-cherished dream. No, he's no Yang Liwei - he won't be in Earth orbit - but his spirits might as well be.
He is believed to be the first buyer of light plane for private use on the Chinese mainland.
He got the nod from the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China to purchase a 4-seat Robinson R-44 helicopter worth 4 million yuan (US$482,000) in early September from a US manufacturer. The chopper is expected to arrive in Shanghai this week.
He will fly his new helicopter to take business trips or even visit friends or relatives in other cities, Li said.
Following Li, Luo Xiaoping, a businessman in Xianyang in Shaanxi Province in the country's northwest, has also filed an order to a US aeroplane seller, according to a Xi'an-based China Business View report.
Luo, who is being trained in Guangzhou General Aviation Company in South China's Guangdong Province for a pilot's licence, has planned to spend 6 to 8 million yuan (US$723,000 to US$964,000) on a light plane.
According to 38-year-old Luo, he will spend 200,000 yuan (US$24,100) on the cost of flight training.
Although the cost is still high, around 2,000 yuan (US$241) per hour, the number of people who want to receive flight training has been on the rise, Guangzhou Baiyun General Aviation Company officials said.
To meet the demand for new private pilots, China aviation authorities are mapping out regulations on the application for the purchase of planes and for take-off procedures, according to Li Yongqi, a spokesman.
In order to assure flying safety, Li said a series of strict examinations for pilots will be implemented.
Analysts say private planes will provide vast business opportunities. Ni Zhuping, a vice-general engineer at China Aviation Industry Corporation II, said there is a vast market for light planes in the country and more than 10,000 will be needed in the next 10 years.
But experts warned that there is a long way to go for the development of private planes.
Deng Taizhong, director of sales for the Harbin Aircraft Industry Group, said the cost on the purchase and overhaul of planes and flight training is so high that most individuals can't afford planes or training.
In the meantime, low-altitude flying is not permitted, which constitutes another obstacle to the take-off of the private planes, he said.
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