EXPANDING GA IN CHINA, Bei Zhuang, Avion Pacific Vice President

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Known as the first ever holistic general aviation (GA) solution provider in Mainland China, Avion Pacific Limited (Avion) took the lead in adding value to the industry through its comprehensive services and its contribution to compiling CCAR 91 regulations. Avion was established in 1993 and has been committed to offering quality solutions for GA operators throughout the world for over 20 years, focusing on aviation consultancy, aircraft transactions, maintenance and operation.

Since the company’s early years, Ms. Zhuang Bei, Vice President, has been a crucial part of the team and in the continued development of GA in mainland China.

Tell me about your experience in the industry?

I joined Avion in 1996 when both the company and the GA industry in China were in their infancy. Apart from professional helicopter enterprises, there were few GA service providers, let alone firms pitching into aircraft operation and trade. The industry, as well, was facing a shortage of aviation talents, either pilots, flight crew or specialists in aircraft transaction and operation. Those early batches of aviation employees in China were similar to me, plunging into the GA industry rather late in their lives.

I used to be an English teacher prior to ending up at Avion. Though it was a decent and stable job in the eyes of many people, I preferred giving a new twist to my life at that time. When Mr. Wu Zhendong, the founder of Avion, invited me to join Avion, I stumbled into this industry inspired by my curiosity towards it.

I got my first glimpse into GA through translation work, since the accessible materials regarding aviation and aircraft at that time came from markets outside of China. This has always been one of Avion’s target: We are committed to bridging the industry between China and Western countries, capitalizing on the more mature experience from the western market to facilitate the growth of general aviation in China.

I then obtained experience through coordinating with pilots, crew and clients during helicopter operations. 

How has the general aviation industry in China evolved since the time you started out?

China’s GA industry has undergone a lot of hardships. Since the reform and opening-up in China most industries gained fast-pace development and reached their boom, with the exception of general aviation, which is one of the last industries to take off because of national security, infrastructure and social wealth. 

I’ve been working in this industry for 22 years. The first 15 or 16 years observed a quite slow expansion of China’s GA industry. Although several investors were aware of the potential, they failed to move into great success as they didn’t understand and expect that aviation, as a capital and talent intensive industry, was very unlikely to make great profits in a short period. 

The industry didn’t grow rapidly until the past five or six years. The development has attracted a lot of new investors to set up GA operations. 

I have reason to believe that there’s a bright future lying ahead for general aviation in China. The industry chain is much more improved compared with that of decades ago, from R&D, manufacturing, sales, training to operation, maintenance and other aspects. Investors are also now well prepared in terms of capital and the Chinese government has introduced favorable GA policy.

What are the current market trends in China and what are your expectations for the future of the industry?

We can take note of the more developed GA markets in Europe, the US and even in India and Brazil to foresee the possible development trends. In terms of operation, we can forecast further growth in terms of business aviation and general aviation operations used in public services, such as aerial forest fire protection and offshore transportation service.

The upcoming trend, as far as I’m concerned, is that GA services will be directly used by customers. The uprise of charter clubs in the US is a proof of this. In China, the government is now advocating for the use of GA for commuters in rural and mountainous areas. This sector has more room to grow than GA used in the public service sector. Taking cloud seeding as an example – if there are 100 aircraft aimed at sharing the workload which can be easily done by 50 aircraft, the market is unlikely to grow in a sound way. But it’s a different case with aircraft utilization of individual customers. This market, as we can expect, still has plenty of room to expand before reaching saturation.

What services does Avion provide? 

In the early years, Avion provided GA technical support and consultancy. The company has since evolved into a GA solutions provider for world-renowned firms, including Mobil and FedEx. During the past two decades, we’ve flexed our muscles by training both rotary- and fixed-wing pilots and flight crew who have grown to become a strong force for this industry. In addition, we provide training for pilots and technical support staff of the domestic Police Air Force through our training school partner. We are now most active in aircraft sales, as a broker for the likes of Sikorsky, McDonnell Douglas, King Air, Dassault and so on. We have successfully completed over 200 sales  

Avion established Kings Aviation Limited in 2011, focusing on helicopter operations. We also recently entered the MRO business, as a representative of Australia-based MRO provider Heli-One. Aircraft leasing is another field that we look forward to entering into. Through these ventures and partnership, Avion can truly provide a comprehensive set of services.  

How does Avion set itself apart from the growing number of general aviation companies in the country? 

The philosophy we hold is that we are willing to provide value-added services to our clients in the pre- and follow-up session of each aircraft transaction, consulting project or any support provided. In terms of aircraft sales, we help our clients to expand their market by leveraging our network and resources. We’ve been able to establish a solid reputation through our clients’ recognition rather than traditional advertisement. Most clients come back because of our excellence in resources and service.

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