Home / USTDA Newsroom / Director Speeches / 2013 / Us China Aviation Symposium 2013 Welcoming Remarks
Leocadia I. Zak, Director, USTDA
Beijing, China

September 10, 2013 —Good morning. On behalf of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, the U.S.-China Aviation Cooperation Program, and all of our sponsors and supporting organizations, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the 2013 U.S.-China Aviation Symposium. This Symposium would not be possible without the assistance of our many partners, especially our cohosts and friends, the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

We are very honored and pleased to have with us today such a high-level delegation from the CAAC, led by Vice Administrator Xia. Vice Administrator Xia, thank you for being such a terrific partner and friend to USTDA over the years.

We are also joined this morning by many members of the U.S. Government, including: Undersecretary of Commerce, Francisco Sanchez; TSA Administrator, John Pistole; the DOT's Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs, Susan Kurland; the FAA's Associate Administrator for Airports, Christa Fornarotto; and the Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy, Daniel Kritenbrink. Their participation is strong evidence of the great value that the U.S. places on our relationship with China.

Finally, I would like to extend a special welcome to the alumni of the Executive Management Development and Air Traffic Management Executive Training programs. These executives are rising stars in their fields, and we are delighted to have them participating in the programs, which have become a hallmark of our aviation partnership. In fact, the CAAC has shown the high value they place on these programs by consistently promoting their graduates – in one class alone, 45 percent of the students received promotions.

We are also joined by some of the leaders of the world's fastest growing airlines, airports and aviation companies in China and the U.S. The ACP would not succeed without their leadership, and we are extremely grateful for their contributions.

Indeed, industry has played a pivotal role throughout the history of the U.S.-China Aviation Cooperation Program – and throughout American and Chinese aviation history in general. In fact, 70 years ago, after a young Chinese woman attended a Paris airshow, she grew determined to become China's first female aviator. With a pioneering spirit, Li Xiaqing traveled to the United States to train at the Boeing School of Aeronautics. On November 5, 1935, Li was the first Chinese woman to graduate from this prestigious program.

There is no doubt that Li benefitted from her exposure to U.S. aviation. Upon her return to China, she won a long battle to earn a pilot's license from the government. Having done so, they then asked her to evaluate civilian airport sites and air routes. She eventually logged 30,000 miles on this mission, which took her to every corner of the country. In Shanghai, Li also helped organize China's first civilian flying school and served as its sole female instructor.[1] At a time when women in China – and in most of the world – were unable to drive their own cars, Li was flying throughout the globe!

Li's legacy is an extraordinary example for us all. She understood the importance of learning from both U.S. and Chinese experts, and the benefits of leveraging the experience of both the public and private sectors. This approach is the foundation of the U.S.-China Aviation Cooperation Program.

This year marks the tenth year of the ACP. Today, with a decade of partnership behind us and many more years of cooperation to look forward to, I want to acknowledge the extraordinary progress we have made together under this remarkable framework.

In 2003, USTDA brought key stakeholders together – including representatives from industry and the FAA – to discuss the challenges they faced in China's aviation sector. We recognized that we could accomplish more by creating a forum that allowed the U.S. and China's public and private sectors to learn from one another. A few months later, the U.S.-China Aviation Cooperation Program was born. From its beginning as a small group around a dinner table, the ACP has grown to a full-time operation with over 40 U.S. company members and four government advisors. Today, it serves as an outstanding model of cooperation.

But when the ACP was created, we did not know just how extraordinary the growth in aviation would be – or how vital a role the partnership could play. Indeed, the Chinese market has experienced tremendous growth: Total passenger traffic has nearly tripled since the ACP began.[2] But, as is often the case with growth like this, the market has also experienced significant challenges. The ACP has served as an excellent means by which to tackle these challenges.

The first priority that the CAAC asked the ACP to address was aviation safety. USTDA provided a grant to support CAAC and Boeing's establishment of an aviation safety school in China over a decade ago. This school grew into the Civil Aviation Safety Academy, which now trains 9,000 people each year. Thanks to the Academy, and to the ACP's training initiatives, China has achieved one of the best aviation safety records in the world.

Indeed, training has long been a priority for both of our countries and the ACP has been a highly effective vehicle for meeting this need. During the last ten years, USTDA has helped the ACP train over 1,100 Chinese aviation leaders through technical workshops, classroom-style courses and on-the-job training. As I noted earlier, the hallmark of these efforts has been the EMDT and ATMET programs, which together have held 13 training sessions. I must confess that, as an educator, one of the events I look forward to most is greeting the EMDT and ATMET classes when they arrive in the U.S. for training each year.  The relationships developed under these programs will serve as the backbone of our future partnership with China's rising aviation leaders.

The second area that the CAAC identified for bilateral engagement was General Aviation, where the U.S. has had a long history of success. In 2007, USTDA funded the first ACP study on GA market development and has since supported a series of studies and technical trainings. We have been pleased to witness immense growth in this area. Last fall, China announced a series of initiatives to liberalize its low altitude air space. And as further evidence of growing interest in General Aviation, a "supermarket" that sells helicopters and airplanes opened in Beijing this year. China is also building the infrastructure necessary for General Aviation. USTDA was pleased to help in this endeavor by funding a General Aviation Development study that will be released this month.

As one might expect from a decade-long partnership, some new challenges have emerged since the ACP was founded. Back in 2004, the environmental impact of aviation was not at the forefront of our consideration. In the last few years, however, it has emerged as both a bilateral and a global priority. Vice Administrator Xia and I signed our first grant supporting sustainable airport development four years ago, at the last Aviation Symposium here in Beijing. And yesterday, we launched our largest effort yet: The Energy Conservation and Emissions Reduction Program. This Program will develop a sustainable plan to ensure that China's impressive growth in aviation does not result in irreparable damage to the environment.

This effort grew out of the candid discussions that took place during the last Aviation Symposium. Two years ago, we had a productive dialogue about many important issues impacting the growth of our aviation systems. While we have made progress towards addressing those issues, there is still more to be done, and that is why we are here today.

USTDA prides itself on listening and responding to our stakeholders. As a result, we trimmed a couple of plenary sessions from this year's Symposium in order to include additional breakout sessions and allow for in-depth discussion. By taking this opportunity to identify and address the ACP's future challenges, we will strengthen cooperation between China's aviation leaders and U.S. providers of technology and services.  And we will continue to ensure that rapid growth in aviation benefits both of our countries.

In a way, we are furthering Li Xiaqing's legacy by coming together here today. Li's aviation career was a bridge between China and the U.S. One of her most celebrated acts was a goodwill tour to raise money for Chinese refugees during World War II. Li received a tremendous response from U.S. citizens when she flew to over 40 American cities in her plane, the Spirit of New China. I think this Symposium, and the incredible success of the ACP, embody the very same spirit. By working together as partners, our two great countries are addressing our shared challenges and celebrating our shared progress. I am confident that, if we allow Li's spirit to guide us, we will continue to achieve great success in the coming decade. Thank you.

1 Rebecca Maksel, "China's First Lady of Flight," AirSpaceMag.com, July 24, 2008, available at:  http://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/Chinas_First_Lady_of_Flight.html?c=y&story=fullstory.

2 "Crowded skies, frustrated passengers," The Economist, August 10, 2013, available at: http://www.economist.com/news/china/21583273-military-control-airspace-and-risk-averse-culture-threaten-cripple-chinas-rapid-growth.