China mulls plans to reform air space management: official

FILE PHOTO: China's home-grown C919 passenger jet takes off on its first flight at Pudong International Airport in Shanghai, China May 5, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese regulators will submit proposals to reform management of the country’s air space by the end of this month in a bid to ease flight delays and boost aviation growth, one of the country’s top air traffic control officials said on Thursday.

Cai Jun, deputy director of the Air Traffic Control Commission, said at a forum in Beijing that the plan aims to eventually integrate civil and military management of China’s air space and improve the country’s flight route network.

He said air space congestion was becoming particularly severe around Beijing and the Pearl River Delta, requiring current governance systems and capabilities to be modernized.

“We understand that reforming the management of the an essential need,” said Cai, whose Air Traffic Control Commission is overseen by China’s State Council and Central Military Commission.

“Pushing ahead with civil and military integration is an important measure and a requirement that will help us adjust to the global air traffic management system and accelerate China’s transformation into an aviation power.”

China is set to overtake the United States as the world’s largest aviation market by 2024, but airlines and travelers often complain that the military can unilaterally cancel or delay commercial flights for reasons such as military exercises.

Local media estimate the military may control up to four-fifths of the country’s airspace. The state-run China Daily newspaper said in January that China’s flight delays averaged at 33 minutes last year, and that the country’s biggest airports in Shanghai and Beijing faced the worst delays.

Cai said the reforms aimed to integrate civil and military management to improve decision making, and could adopt airspace classification methods used by the International Civil Aviation Organization, an agency under the United Nations.

Reporting by Matthew Miller in BEIING and Brenda Goh in SHANGHAI