Beijing offers first helicopter tours


Chinese Bell 407

In a sign that the Chinese authorities might be loosening their tight grip on its airspace, Beijing-based Reignwood Aviation has been given authorisation to begin helicopter pleasure flights over the city.

Having completed small scale trials from Miyun county 60 km northeast of Beijing in February, Reignwood Aviation has been given the nod to start operating tours from two different sites in the east, and south-east of Beijing.

The tours, costing between 1,000 and 2,000 yuan ($162 – $325) began operating from September 1st in a Bell 407GX.

Tourists taking off from the Huanggang site in the south-east of the city get a 20-minute birds-eye view of the 2008 Olympic games venues, Pangu Plaza and Wangjing Boomtown, while those lifting off from the Chaoyang site get a 10-minute ride above Beijing’s business district.

Although helicopter tours are available for tourists visiting Beijing, these mainly focus on trips to the Badaling section of the Great Wall, but Reignwood Aviation is the first company to be given authority to offer excursions around the city itself.

China’s airspace is heavily controlled by the country’s air force, who impose strict rules on operations.

Although small scale trails opening the airspace up have been continuing since they were first announced in 2010, the pace of change has been frustratingly small, with many operators complaining that they aren’t able to compete effectively due to the restrictions that they face.

Tight airspace controls are seen as one of the main barriers stalling growth for both business and general aviation in China, so Reignwood Aviations authority to operate flights around the city could be seen as a positive sign that China is at last, finally, moving towards opening up its airspace.