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Early spring for China's general aviation

05-30-2011 17:11 BJT

BEIJING, May 30 (Xinhua) -- The wind is blowing gently, perfect weather for flying. The sun is gleaming off the surface of a long white runway, which disappears into the clear blue horizon. It is a fine day in early May, ideal for flying small planes around this small airfield in Yanqing County, about 70 kilometers northwest of the center of Beijing.

Less than three years ago, business at the Badaling Airfield was robust. The busiest days saw small aircraft taking off and landing from dawn to dusk, according to Pan Jichun, a senior engineer with Jinggong (Beijing) General Aviation Company Limited, which developed the airfield in the late 1990s and has operated it until now.

Today, the runway is idle. The 12,000-square-meter tarmac lot at its southern end -- enough for 70 to 80 small planes -- is empty as well.

This has to do with a large tower that is being built on the east side of the runway by a research institute affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), which has also installed 100 large mirrors for solar energy experiments. The mirrors reflect the sun's rays, filling the sky with blinding beams of light.

"The dazzling beams are a great danger to airplanes flying over our airfield," Pan says.

The Badaling Airfield is the only privately-funded facility in Beijing dedicated to general aviation (GA). It is now unsuitable for use.

China's aviation sector is strictly controlled. Last year in October, the country's central air traffic authority issued a document concerning the use of the country's low-altitude airspace (LAA).

The document was issued by the State Air Traffic Control Commission (SATCC), China's highest military-based authority on air traffic affairs. It stipulated that airspace less than 1,000 meters above ground would be broken into three categories: control areas, surveillance areas, and free-flight areas.

Free-flight areas may be used by anyone as long as their flight plans are reported to the relevant air traffic authority in advance.

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