HONG KONG: SKY’S THE LIMIT
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。
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）。
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.