As the crow flies


The English idiom ‘As the Crow flies’ has no direct translation into Chinese. Instead the country often uses the expression 直线距离.

Literally translated this means straight line distance. No mention of flying. Or Crows.

This might not come as a surprise to anybody who has ever flown in, or over the top of China, as there’s no such thing as direct routing in the country. Even if the crow wanted to fly in a direct line between one point and another, it couldn’t.

Rather than drawing a straight line between destinations, you’re taken in a roundabout way that can add considerable time to your journey. Transiting the country’s airspace is also the same. Fly from Europe to Korea, and you’re taken to Beijing, whereupon a series of crazy turns puts you back on track.

The problem is that the Chinese Air Force controls most of the country’s airspace. And it’s been woefully reluctant to give up its control.

Alongside the issue of direct routings is the stifling effect it has had on the growth of general aviation in the country, as the majority of airspace affected is between 400 – 1,000 meters.

There have been attempts to bring about a change. Small scale trials were undertaken in 2011 in the airspace around smaller cities including Tangshan, Qingdao and Kunming, and were pronounced a success. Since then the pace of change has been slow, and although the secondary trials were also successful, sweeping reforms have failed to materialize.

That could be about to change though. Following a  meeting of the State Council of The People’s Republic of China that was presided over by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on May 4, a statement was issued saying that the government had agreed to open up more low-altitude airspace, as well as streamlining approvals for flight missions.

We’ve been here before, and been frustrated before. This time though, with noises coming from Li Keqiang himself, it could be different.

NOTE: The above originally appeared as the editorial in our Corporate Jet Investor One Minute Week newsletter. To find out more, and sign up for free, please click here.

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