Chinese pilot's world flight inspires fellow citizens'skyborne dreams   2011-07-14 17:32:21 FeedbackPrintRSS

by Xinhua writers Hu Tao and Mao Haifeng

BEIJING, July 14 (Xinhua) -- "That's one step forward in world flight, but a leap for the private aviation by a Chinese," said Chen Wei, the first Chinese national to fly a private plane around the world.

Setting off from Memphis on May 22, Chen, a Chinese citizen living in the United States, landed at Beijing Capital International Airport on Tuesday.

"I am the first Chinese to undertake the world flight, and the first world flight pilot flying in the skies of China," he said at the airport.

As Chen soared through Chinese airspace, the passion of individuals for private planes and aircraft has soared with him along his journey through the four Chinese cities of Changsha, Xi'an, Beijing and Harbin.

Enthusiasts flooded to these cities to welcome Chen and express their thoughts and sentiments. Some even stepped aboard his plane, a French made Socata TBM-700 single engine turboprop.

"I wish to share the joy and inspiration of flight with my countrymen," Chen told the crowd who welcomed him at the airport in Beijing.

Chen's flight is scheduled to cover more than 40 cities in 21 countries and regions. The planned 40,000-km voyage will take about 10 weeks.

"I'm not flying by myself but with all Chinese," Chen said, adding that he hopes someday more Chinese can enjoy the unique thrill of flying.

Chen, born in Changsha, capital of the central Hunan Province in 1971, is the founder and chief executive of the Memphis-based Sunshine Enterprise, an importer of Chinese scaffolding and hoists.

His dream for a round-the-world flight began two years ago, spurred by the fact that more than 100 individuals from 28 countries had taken the challenge but no Chinese citizens.

"It's the ice-breaking flight of Chen as a Chinese citizen -- he ignites the flying passion deep in the hearts of many Chinese," said Chen Yilong, a real estate tycoon and the first to buy a private plane in northwest China.

In fact, despite owning one four-seat plane and one commercial aircraft, Chen Yilong hasn't really been able to enjoy the thrill of flying in China, in which every private flight requires a lengthy approval procedure under strict regulations.

The Chinese government has decided to promote the general aviation industry and improve airspace management and efficiency in the coming five years.

The announcement, made during the annual parliamentary session in March, is seen by many as a sign for the further opening of China's low-altitude airspace, which is controlled by the Air Force and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

Embracing a niche market means there are a number of holes, including system services and management policies, that will need filled in the industry's future, said insiders.

"In spite of this, a convenient and fast-moving private flight in China is far from being realized," said Zhu Yongmin, an official with the northwest region management bureau of the CAAC.

Besides opening up low-altitude airspace, China also needs to draw up a set of management polices and industry standards, and a chain of supervision on operation, safety procedures and risk management systems needs to be put in place, Zhu said.

The general aviation industry's service chain includes parking spots for jets, maintenance shops and components shops, he said.

Currently, a pilot system for the private aviation industry has been undertaken at Yanliang national aviation hi-tech industrial base in Xi'an.

The base is developing the standards of the airfield, pilot training, and flight safety, said Jin Qiansheng, head of the base.

Regardless of the obstacles to private flight in China, Chen Wei's global flight has fueled the skyborne dreams of his fellow Chinese flight enthusiasts, said Zhi Jie, a member of the aircraft-owners club in China.

While presenting Chen with flowers, Zhi said, "I am so proud and excited that a Chinese citizen is realizing the dream of world flight." Enditem

Editor: Bi Mingxin
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