China frets over aviation safety as sector soars

China frets over aviation safety as sector soars
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First Published: Fri, Aug 31 2007. 01 04 PM IST
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Beijing: China warned that its aviation industry is growing unsustainably fast, with insufficient qualified personnel, airports or airspace, and the sector faces “huge pressures” to ensure safety.
Airlines are also failing to properly look after delayed passengers and are adding new aircraft at an excessively quick pace, the civil aviation regulator said on Friday in a lengthy statement on its Web site (www.caac.gov.cn).
Although China has had no major accidents for the last three years or so, the previous few years had several disasters. One of the reasons for the earlier accidents, it said, was that the industry at the time was also developing too fast.
In 2002, more than 200 people died after two Chinese airliners crashed within weeks of each other, one off China’s northeastern coast and the other near the South Korean city of Busan.
“The regulator believes that at present, available capacity for basic civil aviation facilities and airspace, the number and quality of industry professionals and general management levels, cannot properly cope with current levels of growth,” it added.
“The quick development of civil aviation has satisfied quite well the needs of socio-economic development, but as it is hard for the industry to guarantee it has the ability to keep up with this quick pace, safety work faces huge pressures,” it said.
China, hungrily eyed as a potentially vast market by Boeing Co and EADS-owned Airbus, has been adding large numbers of new aircraft to serve the booming economy and millions of newly affluent people who no longer want to take the train.
In the five-year period to 2010, Chinese airlines will take delivery of 725 aircraft, more than double the number received in the previous five-year period, the regulator said.
There are also 10 new airlines in the pipeline waiting to be approved, it said, adding to the six new private carriers and four set up with foreign investment, which already compete with the main state-owned airlines.
Airspace, most of which is controlled by the military is severly limited and airports in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hangzhou are saturated at peak periods, the regulator said.
“Continually rising flight numbers and limited air space will certainly lead to contradictions,” it said, using typically stilted official phraseology.“If the pace of growth continues to be as excessive as it has been, it will certainly threaten flying safety, and affect the regular operation of flights,” the statement added.
The regulator has already cut the number of flights at Beijing’s international airport, China’s busiest and said it will not accept applications for most new airlines before 2010.
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First Published: Fri, Aug 31 2007. 01 04 PM IST
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