General aviation firms offer quake relief help

Updated: 2013-04-25 02:01

By WANG WEN and WANG QIAN (China Daily)

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General aviation service providers have urged authorities to include them in the nation's emergency response system so they can join relief work following the magnitude-7 earthquake that struck Sichuan province on Saturday.

Tens of non-State general aviation firms said they have been awaiting approval for the past five days to join the rescue work.

The term general aviation covers all civilian aviation operations other than scheduled flights, from gliders and powered parachutes to corporate jets.

The government has asked untrained volunteers to stay away from the earthquake zone to ease traffic jams that have blocked rescuers and volunteers from reaching villages and towns where help is needed. General aviation companies believe their helicopters can deliver food and transfer the injured.

But because the general aviation sector is not included in the national emergency response system, nearly all these companies can do nothing but have their aircraft on standby for approval.

Wu Xiaole, deputy manager of Toefl General Aviation Co in Chengdu, said two of the firm's helicopters have been waiting for approval in Chengdu, 80 km away from quake-hit Lushan county since Saturday.

"We were ready within an hour of the earthquake in Sichuan, but the half-hour journey cannot be made without official approval," Wu said.

The military controls the country's airspace, and all general aviation flights must be approved by military and civilian aviation authorities in advance, which is time-consuming.

Beijing Capital Helicopter Co, which operates nine helicopters, is prepared to send one of its AS350s to the quake-hit area. The single-engine six-seater light helicopter can work at high attitude and is suitable for Ya'an, said Xu Lidong, company president. "We have the power but can't do anything now except wait," Xu said.

Only Xilin Fengteng General Aviation Co in Guanghan, Sichuan, was asked by the Guanghan government to deliver medicine to Lushan on Sunday, and became the only private general aviation company to join earthquake relief work, the company's website said.

The Chengdu Military Region had used 37 military helicopters making 102 flights in the quake-hit area by Monday night, media reports said.

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