AOPA UK

Flying Trip to China - Details

Flying Trip to China - Details

Introduction

AOPA UK  is helping to organise a self-flown trip to China in April 2017 for aircraft from Europe and beyond with  the assistance of RateOneAviation This will be a well-supported trip for self-flown individually owned aircraft. The aim is to make it as accessible as possible with relatively short legs. The route will take at least 6-8 weeks overall and while there is a modest degree of financial support from the Chinese authorities the expense will inevitably be substantial.  To help with cost sharing we will try and match pilots without aircraft to aircraft without enough pilots as required. The route would allow for partial participation leaving or joining the trip at some intermediate using commercial flights. A core of committed participants exists but we are looking for more with the aim of making up a group of 8 or 10 aircraft.  

If you are interested please contact Martin Robinson.

Background

In the past, there has been little or no access to China for General Aviation aircraft.   Recently the been very significant Chinese investment in major GA companies in Europe and America. This seems to have made some opening up of access more likely. There is an air show at Zhengzhou that in time aims to build into a major international event. To this end the show organisers are giving strong support to encourage some general aviation pilots from outside China to attend the show. Martin Robinson of AOPA has been instrumental in getting the project off the ground and has made several visits to China.  PPL IR Europe is co-ordinating and supporting the practical details.

What will be Organised Centrally

Overflight permits, handling, outbound routing, airport transport, hotel selection, fuel availability and engineering support for 50 hour checks, a full programme within China.

Participants Prerequisites

At least one pilot per aircraft should have an IR. It is very desirable to have two pilots per aircraft. Pilots who have not made a long trip before might like to watch a You tube video (coming soon) we have made which discusses preparation and participation in long trips in general.

Aircraft Prerequisites

Aircraft must be IFR capable with a current database for the route. An IFR range of 800 NM or more is desirable but 600NM is possible.  The route is based on a block planning speed of 140 knots for longer range aircraft and 130 knots for shorter range aircraft. Although we will typically aim for FL 090 or FL 100 here may be the odd leg where ATC insists on FL120 or FL130.  Overall, pilots of aircraft with performance limitations must take personal responsibility for reviewing the outline routings and account for the additional costs that they will incur.  It is desirable to carry portable oxygen.  We are not aware of any issues along the route which might cause EASA, US or Australian registered aircraft to be treated differently.

Cost

There is a germ of truth in the old quip that if you need to ask you cannot afford it. We will do our best to get quotations for many services but the overall budget will never be more than a rather approximate estimate. If a handler doubles their charges or fuel is vastly more expensive than the price quoted in advance there is little option other than to pay. Once outside Europe handling and airport charges can easily be £500 an aircraft and a demand for £1000 is not unknown. Hopefully this is balanced by the occasional airport where handling is not needed.  Shorter range aircraft that need more landings will inevitably incur significantly increased costs.  To give pilots a starting point we suggest allowing £1000 for an ‘overnight landing’ to cover handling, taxi and the hotel bed. Add say £500 for handling at any fuel tech stop. For fuel, we suggest budgeting 2.5 times your UK cost. There will be one off charge for administration, charts, visas and overflight permits which might amount to £2000 per aircraft. The good news is that the air show organisers will make a significant contribution to costs incurred in China

So, for the longer-range aircraft, assuming China involves only modest expenses a budget of about £12,000 is a starting point for the outbound trip (excluding fuel).

Participant Attitude

This is probably obvious to most but its best to get a common expectation at the outset. There is bound to be a degree of uncertainty. Changes of plan right up to departure and even while en route are to be expected.  This is not like a package holiday where you can look to the organiser (who after all is doing this on a voluntary basis) to resolve all difficulties.  Pilots will need to pitch in and do whatever is needed. We remember with pleasure a trip for about 10 aircraft where on one leg the organiser was the last aircraft to arrive. It emerged that the prepaid hotel had simply forgotten us and was full. However, the crew of the first aircraft to arrive had discovered the problem, found another hotel with 20 free beds, organised taxis for the group and left directions to the new hotel before the ‘organiser’ had even landed. 

Hotels

We are not looking for luxury or boutique hotels. We will aim for the security and predictability of chain hotels around the 4 /5* level wherever possible. Individuals will in most cases be responsible for paying their own hotel bills on departure. 

Aircraft Insurance

Worldwide cover is available from some insurers. It’s up to individuals to organise this and the starting point is usually your regular insurer. However, we will try and assist in cases of difficulty.

Maintenance

We hope to facilitate 50-hour check /oil change while in China.  There may be more of an issue with a 100-hour check falling due during the return.  Pilots should talk to their maintenance organisation and try and ensure that wherever possible any check item likely to cause difficulties en route is carried out in advance.  It is only common sense to ensure that items like tyres or brakes unlikely to last 100 plus hours should be replaced before departure.

You would be well advised to carry your aircraft maintenance and spares data on DVD or IPad.  If loading is not absolutely critical carrying oil and some basic spares and tools would be a useful precaution. Within the group we will ensure that more specialist tools like jacks, AVGAS barrel pump and a strut pump are available.  Maintenance is also available in Thailand if slower aircraft are concerned that they will not make the destination in 55 hours (assuming a 10% extension)

Go /No go Decisions En route

It is up to individuals to make their own weather assessments.  That said we will make every effort to offer advice and disseminate information. The most capable aircraft will be able to pass on data from downlink or on board radar while en route.

Data / Flight plans

We will disseminate useful charts and other data. There is some hope the Jeppesen will support the trip.  It is up to individuals to file their own flight plans using Rocket route or the handling agents. We via the handling agents will provide acceptable routings and, in some instances, use Rocket Routes concierge service. 

Visas

We will organise these. Note that the basic assumption is that all participants are crew and hold pilot’s licenses.  The wearing of gold bars may smooth one’s passages in some countries. If an aircraft has passengers this is likely to necessitate different handling for example passing through a main terminal or requiring a different Visa. We will facilitate this but additional costs will be passed on.  

China

There is no flexibility in China. We must follow the defined route into and out of the country. Navigation will need to be precise. There will be some obligation to participate in any PR activities at the air show and any sightseeing that our hosts provide en route.  It seems likely that they will meet most costs while we are at the show. This is a generous proposal so a little courteous co-operation is a pretty fair return.

China is a country where there is strong central control and policies can change.  At this stage all indications are very positive but we do need to accept the small chance that external events might lead to permission being changed or withdrawn. We will have a plan B for some activities in Vietnam and Cambodia.

Dates

We need to reach Zhengzhou by April 26 / 27. Assuming 15 days en route including 4 rest days implies leaving around April 10 /11. Allowing for two or three days spent at the destination

Outbound Route

This is detailed below. Please don’t get too drawn into considering the detail at this stage. Things will change according to fuel availability, the actual limitations of the actual participants and perhaps political events. Don’t listen too closely at the airfield bar to pilots who did a ferry flight years ago or whose experience has been in jets at FL 300.

Getting through Europe to Greece is pretty straight forward. Crete (either Iraklion or Sitia ) is the normal point of departure from Europe. Jorden is pretty GA Friendly but Israel is difficult at the lower levels so a direct routing to Jorden is not available. This means a transit of Egyptian airspace and possibly a landing. Fuel is usually available somewhere in Egypt but the actual location can vary. Rather ironically Saudi Arabi has always been a difficult place to find AVGAS. It’s a big country, there are political sensitivities and some routes demand high minimum flight levels. Handling fees are likely to be high but service is efficient and one way or another a transit can be achieved.

Once into India AVGAS is less of a problem but India is not known for efficient speedy handling.  Shorter range aircraft may need fuel stops in Pakistan and Bangladesh, countries with similar bureaucratic issues.

Once into Thailand we don’t expect any major issues. Fuel may need to be pre-bought in Hanoi and then we expect to be looked after once we are in China. 

Return route

This is up to individuals to organise themselves although we will offer a degree of coordination and support.   The following ideas have been mooted in early discussion with potential participant’s.

·         Simply reverse the route once again going for a fairly speedy return. This suits those with limited free time who see this as a flying adventure rather than an opportunity to spend time in a country or visit tourist sites.

·         A variation on this is to follow a similar route but to spend some time in one or two countries perhaps Thailand and India.  

·         There is interest in going on to Australia and leaving the aircraft hangered there intending to return to Europe by commercial flight to return to collect the aircraft sometime later perhaps to tour the South Sea islands and/ or Indonesia and Borneo using Australia as a base. This lends itself to lots of varied relatively short trips to exciting tourist destinations likely to interest partners whose see GA flights as a means to an end. We are likely to be able to support this by organising hangarage and maintenance in Australia. One participant is fairly serious about a three-stage trip over about 5 /6 months in broad terms a month flying via China to Australia, a month off, one month flying out of or around Australia, another month off and finally a relaxed one month flight home spending several days in interesting places en route.  

Crewing

We are happy to try and match up aircraft without pilots to pilots without aircraft. Obviously, people need to establish compatibility and operating procedures if they are going to spend long hours together in a cramped cockpit. We have seen this work well in the past and the cost and time sharing opens up great opportunities. Some aircraft owners are rather precious about who flies their aircraft but can we urge them not to be. Nothing has a worse effect on an aircraft lack of use. This trip could work brilliantly if one crew took the aircraft outbound and another flew the return trip. Multiple crew changes en route is another strategy we have seen work before. 

Who exactly is doing the organising

For the moment, Jim Thorpe is doing the preparatory work and intends to participate.  Initially this is being done on a voluntary basis without charge but as the workload becomes clear a service charge may be made.  This involvement came about completely by chance due to bumping into Martin Robinson of AOPA on a return flight from Oshkosh where he had been meeting Chinese officials.  Jim is retired but teaches and examines for the IR through his ATO Rate One Aviation so he can sign off pretty much any revalidation needed before or during the trip.  He is a past Chairman of PPL IR Europe and has owned aircraft maintenance companies. He makes no claim to being an expert on Middle East and Asian travel but has flow GA aircraft to the USA, South America, Central America, Israel, Jorden and parts of Africa.  When he had a real job to fund his flying he owned a Tour Operating business.

Martin Robinson is negotiating with the Chinese authorities. We will in due course engage one or probably two of the specialist agencies for the overflight clearances, fuel and handling arrangements.  

Payments

In general individuals take responsibility for paying their own hotel and fuel bills. The organisers will obviously pay for group services planned in advance funded by appropriate advanced payments from participants. It may occasionally be necessary for the organisers to pay unexpectedly for services for the group as a whole. For example, a fuel supplier only accepting payment by fuel card. In these circumstances participants, will be expected to pay their estimated share in cash on the spot. In any case participants are advised to carry a significant cash fund in US $.  It is very likely that normal credit cards will not be accepted in some locations. We will also investigate the extent to which fuel supplier’s own cards may be useful.

We will soon be asking for a deposit of £200 just to establish who is serious. (Refundable only if the trip does not happen). When there is a reasonably firm plan in place participants will be expected to make a deposit payment of £1000.  This will be refundable for a period less expenses incurred to that point if the trip has to be cancelled. It will not be refundable if the participant drops out. Then nearer the departure date further payments will be required so naturally pilots financial exposure will increase sharply. Participants may choose to take out insurance to cover cancellation due to illness etc.

Route

Plan 3 detail

             

Depart

Code

Arrive

Code

Dist Nm

Time

Time

Day

 

 

 

 

 

140 kts

130kts

 

Gloucester

EGBJ

Pula

LDPL

836

5.6

 

1

Gloucester

EGBJ

Avignon

LFMV

560

 

4.3

 

Avignon

LFMV

Pula

LDPL

400

 

3

 

Pula

LDPL

Sitia

LGST

835

5.6

 

2

Pula

LDPL

Podgorika

LYPG

300

 

2.3

 

Podgorika

LYPG

Sitia

LGST

540

 

4.2

 

Sitia

LGST

Aquaba

OJAQ

563

3.8

 

3

Rest day

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

Sitia

LGST

Cairo

HEMM

250

 

1.9

 

Cairo

HEMM

Aqaba

OJAQ

420

 

3.2

 

Aqaba

OJAQ

Riyadh

OERK

754

5.4

 

5

Aquaba

OJAQ

Jeddah

OEJN

525

 

4

 

Jeddah

OEJN

Riyadh

OERK

470

 

3.6

 

Riyadh

 

Muscat

 

755

5.4

 

6

Riyadh

OERK

Abu dhabi

OMAD

484

 

3.7

 

Abu dhabi

OMAD

Muscat

OOMS

270

 

2

 

Muscat

OERK

Ahmedabad

OOMS

805

5.8

 

7

Muscat

OOMS

Karachi

OPKC

493

 

3.8

 

Karachi

OPKC

Ahmedabad

VAAH

320

 

2.5

 

Ahmedabad

VAAH

Bhubaneswar

VEBS

761

5.4

 

8

Ahmedabad

VAAH

Nagpur

VANP

380

 

2.9

 

Nagpur

VANP

Bhubaneswar

VEBS

390

 

3

 

Rest Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

9

Bhubaneswar

VEBS

Chang Mai

VTCC

862

5.8

 

10

Bhubaneswar

VEBS

Chitagong

VGHS

340

 

2.6

 

Chitagong

VGHS

Chang Mai

VTCC

570

 

4.4

 

Chang Mai

VTCC

Hanoi

VVNB

429

3

3

11

Hanoi

VVNB

Nanning

ZGNN

166

1.2

1.2

11

Rest day

 

 

 

 

 

 

12

Nanning

ZGNN

Changde

ZGCD

454

3.2

3.2

13

Rest day

 

 

 

 

 

 

14

Changde

ZGCD

Zhengzhou

ZHCC

410

2.9

2.9

15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

53.1

61.7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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