Where you can fly
China has a bunch of flight restrictions beyond the Covid related ones. You will need overflight and landing permits for anywhere in China.
They get grumpy if you make a lot of changes to your flight planning. Particularly avoid last minute changes. Avoid diverting to an airport that is not a planned alternate, unless an absolute emergency.
China only allow certain airways for usage by non Chinese registered aircraft. These mostly run north-south. It is often recommended to offset 1-5nm due congestion, but this is only allowed by ATC. Don’t apply SLOP without confirming with ATC first. Any other airway requires you to have a Chinese navigator onboard, and you generally won’t find these published in your Jeppesen or LIDO manuals. The same goes for some smaller domestic airfields.
There are multiple restricted areas across the country. Some of them are not always obvious… which means you will rarely get “Direct To…” clearances, and may often find your levels are restricted or you are given seemingly random re-routes. Fuel planning is critical, as is accurate route tracking.
How they do it.
China do it in meters. You should have procedures in place for this. If you are in RVSM airspace you might notice the ‘feet’ levels are all +100’. This is because the Chinese meter levels only provide 300m (900’) separation, and RVSM requires 1000’ minimum separation.
Flights departing China and heading east often report being ‘held down’ at sub-optimal flight levels. Shanghai seems to be one of the worst spots for this, due to a corridor south of Korean and Japanese airspace.
What about parking?
ZBAA/Beijing has had stricter parking restrictions in place since 2015. If you are GA, you are limited to 24 hours. ZBTJ/Tianjin is a good and relatively nearby alternate for parking – it is also an airport of entry, and has less parking restrictions but be warned, it also has much less in terms of facilities and is not available H24.
ZBSJ/Shijiazhuang is another option, as is ZBHH/Hohhot.
What about maintenance?
If routing in the general region, VHHH/Hong Kong and VMMC/Macau are probably easier options for finding maintenance support, or WSSS/Singapore.
Of course, if you can’t make it to these airports then ZBAA/Beijing, ZGGG/Guangzhou, ZSAM/Xiamen and ZPSD/Shanghai do have some big maintenance facilities available, but most other airports might struggle to help corporate aircraft.
Parts and support are usually sent in from Hong Kong or Singapore. Having contacts in place and a “plan” are probably a good call to avoid big delays though.
Different airports and regions have different customs within the airport, and outside. In Beijing you will find most social media and many websites blocked, including google. Some VPNs will enable use. Shanghai tends to be much less strict and Hong Kong is fine.
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