Air Transport World

People's Republic of China airline system remains uncertain.

People's Republic of China airline system remains uncertain

China is unwittingly creating a new meaning for fly-by-nights. Its new "airlines' are here today (well, almost) and gone tomorrow.

The flurry began in the summer of 1984 when self-criticism at the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) sounded more serious. This was partly because the airline suffered four accidents or incidents between April 1982 and September 1983, and some genuine concern was being expressed about its safety. In its June 1984 edition, Hong Kong-based Business Traveller magazine ran a cover story on CAAC entitled "Grounds for grounding?'

The self-criticism was followed that autumn by the surprise statement from Gu Mu, the state councillor in charge of China's modernization program, that CAAC would cease to exist as an airline and its place would "soon' be taken by new airlines. CAAC would continue to exist, however, as the civil aviation administration department of China.

The idea looked impractical from the beginning--in terms of aircraft, routes, economic viability and much more. But that never worried China in the past, and it did not seem to matter this time.

Commuter/regional airlines

An announcement soon followed from the head of CAAC. He repeated the policy decision, and added that there were to be five new airlines, naming them as Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, China Southwest and China Capital Helicopter (see box).

These five have since changed, and even at this time there are others, many of which sounded like they would be China's equivalent of commuter or regional airlines. …

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