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City mulls plan to open airspace to private aircraft

Shanghai is considering opening up its low altitude airspace for general aviation to enable a growing number of private jets to fly freely over the city.

The East China Bureau of the Civil Aviation Administration of China said its airspace management plan will be formulated within five years.

"Opening more airspace can boost related industry and bring both social and economic benefits," it said yesterday in response to a proposal made by the city's top advisory body.

Civil aviation officials said they have reached a consensus with the military on gradually opening up the airspace on a trial basis.

China decided to open its low-altitude airspace to civil aviation last November in a circular that said trial operation will start in some areas this year.

Although Shanghai is not on the first list of trial areas, local aviation experts agreed that the city should begin airspace management reform in view of a potential demand for helicopters and light planes which normally fly at low altitudes.

Wei Jian, an aviation professor with Shanghai University of Engineering Science, said the move "will bring new growth point to Shanghai's economy."

Wei said the strict control of low-altitude airspace has long been regarded as a bottleneck in aviation development and available resources are not well used. Private aircraft owners have to apply for permission days in advance for every flight.

Low-altitude airspace, normally below 1,000 meters, is mostly used for police patrol, firefighting, medical first aid, news reporting and other businesses.

Regional aviation authority did not disclose the number of private aircraft in Shanghai. People only saw police helicopters mostly during the World Expo last year. However low-attitude flights may not make everyone happy.

Residents living near the Hongqiao International Airport protested over the weekend after aviation authority lowered the minimum flight altitude on Wednesday. They said noise pollution will only get worse with more planes in the sky.


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