Datong in Shanxi province used to be known for its air pollution. Today, the former "coal city" has upgraded its industry structure and is accelerating its green development, launching brand new sectors, including general aviation.
The Datong government said the city will carry out supply-side reform and seize the opportunities for industrial growth brought about by general aviation. Plans to establish a general aviation industrial park is an important development direction for Datong, according to the city government.
In 2016, companies of China and Germany launched a general aviation industrial park in Datong, with an investment of 997 million yuan (4 million). Currently under construction, the park is expected to start operation in 2021.
By then, the plant will produce 500 to 1,000 light aircraft a year, with an expected annual sales revenue of 2 billion yuan to 3 billion yuan. Most aircraft produced there will be sold in China to meet domestic demand.
The light aircraft include the C42, a two-seat, light aircraft manufactured by German company Comco Ikarus GmbH. It is one of the most frequently used aircraft for flight training, farming and forestry.
"The industrial park in Datong will also be responsible for manufacturing and selling other light sports aircraft, maintaining general aviation aircraft, training pilots and providing aircraft for sports events and low-altitude tourism," said Zuo Jianjun, deputy general manager of Datong Deshen General Aviation Management Co Ltd.
"Datong has a number of scenic spots, including the ancient city area, Yungang Grottoes, volcano sites and Mount Heng. We plan to further improve the low-altitude traveling activities around those sites."
Datong Deshen is a State-owned enterprise founded in 2014 with an investment of 200 million yuan. It is responsible for the investment, construction, services, coordination and management of the city's general aviation industrial park. Besides fixed-wing aircraft, the industrial park also assembles gliders and cooperates with German glider manufacturer Stemme AG.
Companies of China and the United States have also launched a general aviation plant in Datong, with an investment of 1.6 billion yuan. By 2022, the plant is expected to achieve annual sales revenue of 8.6 billion yuan.
Meanwhile, Datong is in discussions with companies of the United Kingdom, Russia, France, Ukraine and Italy, looking to introduce their advanced general aviation technologies into China, including light aircraft engines, and the research and development of simulators. Many of the countries have expressed interest in cooperating, according to Datong Deshen.
In 2016, Datong's air quality met environmental standards on 314 days out of 365. The city's air quality ranked the best in Shanxi province, according to the local government's environmental protection department.
By the end of the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) period, China will have 500 new airports and more than 5,000 general aviation aircraft will be in operation. The scale of the general aviation industry will exceed 1 trillion yuan, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
"It's very positive that there are specific policies aimed at the sector. It will have a very positive effect and will encourage more people to join the sector," said Andy Gill, senior director of business and general aviation, Asia Pacific at Honeywell Aerospace.