November 29, 2010:
As Chinese aircraft factories churn out more commercial helicopters and small airplanes, there is a curious absence of these aircraft in the Chinese skies. China doesn't lack for billionaires and business that can afford this form of transportation. What China does lack is permission for private citizens to fly. Until moments like this, it's easy to forget that China is still a communist police state. The military controls the skies, and getting permission to fly private aircraft is extremely difficult. Very wealthy, well-connected and brave individuals ignore the law and fly anyway. Their attitude is that they have enough lawyers, cash and connections to deal with the police. Of course, there's always the risk that some air force commander will just decide you are a threat and blow you out of the sky.
Under pressure from its growing business class, China is going to start opening up the currently unfriendly skies to private aviation. It will take years (and some large cash gifts) to pry control from the military, but soon many areas will be open to private aircraft flying at low altitude (under 4,000 meters/13,122 feet). Aircraft, usually helicopters, flying at under 1,000 meters (3,100 feet) won't even have to file flight plans. The rules and regulations are being worked out now, and large areas are to be opened up within two years.