Mar 30, 2016

    Want to buy plane? China firm has 2 showrooms filled with jets

    THE successful launch of China's first airplane showroom in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, is propelling Shanghai-based General Dynamic Aero Tech Company to open more bricks-and-mortar stores to satisfy the industry's growing demand.

    In April last year, the shop, GD Aero E Store, was launched in Ningbo's Meishan bonded area. It sells general and private aircraft, and offers demonstrations, maintenance, operational support, supplies and insurance.

    In less than a year, the store sold 95 aeroplanes, more than double the number the company sold in 2014, which encouraged it to open a branch last month in Hubei province.

    "General Dynamic Aero Tech started to provide sales and maintenance services several years ago, but we always thought it was necessary to have a bricks-and-mortar store, just like an automobile showroom, where customers could see and test the real products," said Sun Liguo, its vice-president and general manager of the Ningbo store.

    The store's 2,000 sq m hangar can showcase 10 jets while the Wuhan centre in Hubei has a 1,000-sq-m hangar.

    The 95 planes sold in Ningbo were priced between 4 million and 120 million yuan (S$842,000 and S$25 million), Mr Sun said.

    "The majority of the aircraft sold are not for private use, which accounts for only 10 to 15 per cent. Most of them are used in industry, agriculture, forest, building, medical aid, meteorological detection and flight training," he noted.

    The booming market follows Beijing's November 2010 decision to gradually open its low-altitude airspace, under 1,000m, to promote the general aviation sector.

    General aviation requires less land than other transportation methods, and the opening of additional low-altitude airspace will give the sector a boost in the future, said Chen Zhuo, an analyst from China Merchants Securities.

    "The development of general aviation lags far behind the commercial airline sector, where China owns the world's second-largest aircraft fleet by size," he added.