HONG KONG: SKY’S THE LIMIT

香港:冲上云霄

Jet Asia Pacific - - Talking -

In Issue 38, JET Asia-pacific spoke about Civil Air Patrol with Chris Buchholz, former CEO of Metrojet and Hongkong Jet. As promised, the following is a continuation of the story with Buchholz for an exclusive inside look at potential GA solutions in Hong Kong.

There’s no doubt that Hong Kong and wider Asia need grassroots initiatives like the CAP. Hong Kong in particular should resist looking for top down approaches, and instead seek bottomup solutions to allow grassroots GA development. As Buchholz explains, “Asia could learn from the CAP and develop their own version of a volunteer flying corps. There’re more than 55,000 members in CAP nationwide including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Sweden has a strong flying corps as well. Canada has it too, though at the moment it is for cadets only, but there is a separate volunteer non-profit organization that is involved in SAR.”

In fact, as Buchholz points out, Hong Kong already has a precedent for a government-backed volunteer organization in the form of the Civil Aid Service (CAS), which assists in a variety of auxiliary emergency roles, including search and rescue operations, but does not currently have an aviation outfit. Even if a future Hong Kong version of the CAP exists but may be restricted or limited by having no or few aircraft, private aircraft owners in Hong Kong could use their private aircraft for missions and share them with other members (in fact, that’s how the US Coast Guard Auxiliary’s volunteer air operations program is run).

Buchholz imagines, “Hong Kong does have the HK Air Cadet program, but flying in Hong Kong is cost prohibitive, and once a Hong Kong air cadet reached adulthood, there is no way for them to fly GA for free by flying missions - allowing GA pilots in Asia to conduct SAR flights would allow a lot more former air cadets to stay connected with aviation and become active pilots, even if they have limited means. Right now, local Hong Kong boys and girls apply to the Hong Kong-based airlines which might as well be an astronaut program – very difficult to get into and difficult to build command time. If it’s not that, they stop at a wall and they’re done. Many drop out of aviation and do something else. Let’s not clip the wings of great promising cadets - let them fly and provide an invaluable service to their communities. One way to do that might be to merge the HK Air Cadets with a newly created volunteer air corps under the GFS, or perhaps CAS. CAP encourages grassroots involvement in aviation because your aviation growth is not stunted when you become an adult – you can continue and fly missions, even if you have very limited resources.”

The value and effectiveness of having a program like CAP in Hong Kong and indeed in other parts of Asia would certainly help highlight the unique value of growing the whole spectrum of General Aviation, which in turn would greatly help remedy the region’s long time "lack of local pilots" dilemma. The added benefits seen in the US thanks to CAP include education for the youth, giving low-income families a ‘leg up’, and opportunities for career development – all a big draw. “In order to get the full benefit of a volunteer flying corps in the region, you’d really need 24/7 access to airports, so for Hong Kong for example, that would mean opening up Shek Kong airport to fixed wing GA operations every day of the week, while the industry and the community would really need GA aircraft being able to easily refuel and build command time in other parts of the Pearl River Delta without burdensome landing fees for small GA aircraft. Imagine a Pearl River Delta GA airport where pilots can fly between Hong Kong and Guangdong. It’s a win win for everybody if a strong and safe Asian GA pilot corps can be built,” Buchholz notes. Buchholz, who is fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese, recalls: “I remember flying the boss of the largest aircraft leasing firm in Mainland China in a GA aircraft in the US on cross-country flights. He was shocked about how easy it is to fly GA in the US. We are very fortunate in the US when it comes to GA. For Asia, with a little creative thinking and political will, there’s no doubt that the next version of CAP could be in Asia. The sky is truly the limit.”

在《尊翔》第38期,我们曾与美捷香港商用飞机有限公司( Metrojet)及香港商务航空公司( Hongkong Jet)前总裁林烈风( Chris Buchholz)就美国民间航空巡逻队( Civil Air Patrol)的话题进行了一次深入的探讨。之前提过会在本期发表林烈风访谈的第二部分内容。让我们一起来听听他以行内人的独到视角,剖析香港通用航空业的潜在问题和解决方案。

谈到通用航空业,香港乃至亚洲各地无疑都需要更多像美国民间航空巡逻队一样源自基层的主动和努力。香港尤其应该避免一味寻求由上而下的策略,改而借着由下而上的解决方案来推动民间通用航空业的发展。诚如林烈风所说:“亚洲应该效仿美国民间航空巡逻队,发展亚洲模式的志愿飞行部队。美国民间航空巡逻队共有55,000名成员,遍布全国各地、包括波多黎各自由邦及美属维尔京群岛。瑞典同样有一支实力强大的民间飞行部队。加拿大也有,虽然目前只允许候补军官或军校学员参加;同时加拿大还有一个支援搜索救援工作的非盈利志愿组织。”

林烈风也指出,事实上香港早已有一支由港府支持的志愿辅助部队,称为“民众安全服务队”(简称“民安队”, Civil Aid Service),在灾难发生时扮演辅助角色,执行包括搜救行动在内的各种紧急任务,但至今未辟设航空单位。香港即使在未来成功发展出自己的民间航空巡逻队,也可能会遇到飞机数量不足的问题。因此,私人飞机机主借出飞机执行任务也许能成为一个解决方案(美国海岸警卫队的空中志愿行动计划就是以这个方式展开的)。

林烈风也分享了他的观察:“香港不是没有航空青年团训练计划,但飞行费用高得惊人,而且一旦青年团学员成年,他们就不再有任何免费展开通航飞行的机会。如果亚洲能开放让通航飞行员参与航空搜救行动,就能让更多青年团学员在结业后不至于与航空飞行脱节,即使负担不起费用,也能通过执行任务获得飞行机会,保持活跃。然而现在的情况是,香港青年只能设法挤进本地的航空公司,这简直跟申请当宇航员一样困难,难考入也难累计飞行时间。挤不进的话就好比碰了壁,断了前路。好些人索性放弃飞行梦,转而从事其他行业。让我们不要折断这些年轻人的双翼,让他们有机会去飞,去为社会大众提供一些有价值的服务。一个可行的方法也许是在政府飞行部队或民安队属下组建一支志愿飞行部队,与香港航空青年团合并。美国民间航空巡逻队之所以鼓励民间参与航空业,正是因为人的飞行技术不会在成年以后就停滞不前,即便资源有限,还是可以通过执行任务继续飞行。

美国民间航空巡逻队模式的价值和效应,如果能在香港乃至亚洲其他地区落实,肯定有助于提高通用航空发展的特殊价值,进而在很大程度上缓解区域内长期存在的“本地机师荒”困境。民间航空巡逻队在美国带来的其他裨益还包括:为青少年提供航空教育、扶助低收入家庭、拓展航空业事业发展前景——所有的这些都极具吸引力。

“但是,如果这个区域要享受组建志愿飞行部队带来的所有好处,就必须放松管制,全天候开放机场。以香港为例,就得开放石岗机场,一周七天允许固定的通用航空业者使用;而无论业者还是飞行员,都需要在能让小型民用飞机在无需承担昂贵着陆费用的情况下,便捷地在珠江三角洲周边加油和累计飞行时间。就像珠江三角洲有一个可以让飞行员自由往返港穗两地的通用航空机场,”林烈风总结道:“亚洲如果能建立起一支坚实安全的通用航空飞行员部队,对大家都会是个双赢局面。”

精通普通话和粤语的林烈风回忆道:“记得我在一次长途飞行中,驾驶民用飞机,载着中国内地规模最大的飞机出租公司老板飞往美国。这位中国老板对民用飞机能如此畅通无阻地进入美国领空感到非常惊讶。就通用航空领域而言,我们在美国算是很幸运了。至于亚洲,只要多些创意思考、多点政治决心,下一个民间航空巡逻队将毫无疑问地在亚洲诞生。飞行的极限应该只有天空。”

Former Metrojet and Hongkong Jet CEO Chris Buchholz is an active Mission Pilot and 1st Lieutenant in the New York Wing of CAP in Westchester County.

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