China’s aviation industry is growing and with it so are the aspirations of many millions of Mainland Chinese. Predicted to become the worlds largest market for business and general aviation, China’s middle class unsatisfied with simply owning an Audi or two, increasingly desires to take to the skies in their own aircraft. China’s aviation industry seems unstoppable, but is it really on the verge of take off?

James Fallows’ (journalist, China correspondent and plane enthusiast) latest book China Airborne, puts two of my favourite interests, planes and China, under one communist-revolutionary-zeal-esque cover.

Fallows’ 236 page narrative sets about detailing the development of China’s aviation industry, how it has evolved, the factors influencing its development and the future direction of the industry. Writing with perspective and humour, Fallows turns what could have been a dull read into a fascinating insight into the status of aerospace and aviation in today’s China.

Readers are taken through a history of China’s aviation pioneers, and the unique cultural factors that have influenced the development of China’s aerospace industry. Fallows details the important roles Boeing and the FAA have played China’s aviation safety, and we are introduced to the Chinese and foreign ‘middlemen’ who are facilitating the next stage of the industry’s development.

China is determined to build an aerospace sector equivalent in strength and quality to others around the world. Fallows explores the factors influencing the development of an aerospace industry with ‘Chinese characteristics’ including its achievements and inherent limitations. There is also discussion of companies taking advantage of the explosion to introduce navigation technology, which is delivering improvements in environmental efficiency and safety in Tibetan operations.

We experience first hand the restrictions of China’s general aviation industry as he joins a friend on a cross-country Cirrus flight from Changsha to Zhuhai – GA never took off in China, because of the military’s control of airspace. And meet the provincial officials and aviation visionaries, with no aircraft, but runways at their disposal, who aim to take general aviation mainstream

Disappointingly the final two chapters could have done with far more discussion about aeroplanes. Losing their flight path, the chapters focus more on a general discussion of China’s current political situation and development. Although, those with little knowledge of the extent of China’s internal trials and tribulations will learn a great deal.

Fun and full of Chinese idiosyncrasies, and lacking complex jargon, China Airborne is well worth the time.