Superior to Build Aviation Utopia in China

By Scott Spangler on August 18th, 2014

Idealists in 18th and 19th century America founded a number of utopian communities. Falling victim to their cultural and social ideals, they rarely lasted into the 20th century, and in the 21st century the Amana Colonies, Shakers, and Oneida Community, among others, are historic tourist destinations. Some may see it as an aviation utopia, but given its scope and thoughtful integration of elements, the recently approved Superior Aviation Town is a purposeful and pragmatic utopia with a better than good chance of long-term survival.

As Superior Group CEO Tim Archer described the town and its components, my initial impression changed. A global interface and cultural translator might be a more apt description than utopia. Located about 11 miles east of Beijing Capital International Airport, the 1,236-acre town will be built around the executive airport’s 7,800-foot runway (with a second runway planned for the future). Dedicated exclusively to business and general aviation, it should be operational in about three years.

The executive airport will be tower controlled with ILS and GPS instrument approaches. It will be surrounded by a GA manufacturing center, duty-free zone, exhibition center, living facilities, and a flying club. It will be the model for similar towns the group foresees as China’s GA infrastructure. More importantly, the towns will mitigate the differences between Chinese and Western cultures, said Archer. Here, it seems, is the key to the project’s success.

Western companies often struggle in marketing their products there because the Chinese buying habits are different from those in the west. “The Chinese want flagship western products,” said Archer, “but they want to buy them under their terms in China.” Superior Aviation Town will make that possible. Giving a concise airframe example, he said a western company would not have to move its whole operation to China. A completion center, with inventory at the duty-free area, would give the Chinese a hand in the airplane’s creation.

Manufacturers would not have to work with the Chinese in a joint venture (unless the western company so desired). To aid efficient certification, the Civil Aviation Authority of China has already agreed to staff an office there, and the Superior group will provide a cadre of technical translators to produce the necessary documents and manuals. And when the airplane is complete, the company showroom would be in the exhibition Center. And the company’s expat managers would reside in the town’s housing area.

Without a doubt, this is an ambitious undertaking, but after listening to Archer talk about it, I don’t doubt that it won’t come to pass because the Chinese culture is different than that in the west. First of all, they aren’t fighting an existing infrastructure. Because people make their living from it, they resist changes that impinge on their future. Equally important are the differences in our political and legal cultures. Given their performance (or lack thereof) over the past several years, I can’t imagine that any prudent business would attempt such a thing in the United States, and that makes me sad. – Scott Spangler, Editor

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