China is set to invest 77 billion yuan (about $11.9 billion) during 2016 to upgrade its civil aviation infrastructure, which will include the construction of new airports, according to comments made by the head of the country’s civil aviation regulator Wednesday and reported by Xinhua News Agency.
The world’s second-largest economy and the most populous country will also focus on aircraft research and manufacturing.
The revamp will start with construction of 11 new airports around the country, and another 52 projects to upgrade existing aviation infrastructure. The sector will also receive preference to improve transportation, as well as be a growth engine for the economy and boost employment by creating jobs.
“The general aviation sector, especially aircraft research and manufacturing, has became [sic] a hot spot of both industrial upgrading and social concern,” Feng Zhenglin, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said Wednesday.
In a separate move, China’s cabinet reportedly said Wednesday it would support the opening of low-altitude airspace, which in turn would foster development of the country’s nascent market for helicopters and small aircraft.
“Opening up will especially benefit China’s tourism, emergency medical services and pilot training sectors, which operate light aircraft and helicopters,” Greg Waldron, Asia managing editor at industry publication Flightglobal, told Reuters.
In 2013, there were only 1,600 light aircraft in China and around 80 airports to handle them, compared with the U.S., which had about 300,000 light aircraft in 2013 and 24,000 airports for them, according to Reuters.