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Light aircraft and helicopters take off on the internet?


Over the past few weeks the Chinese media has become obsessed with the fact that there is now a website selling light aircraft and helicopters online. For those outside of China, the idea of selling your plane or helicopter via an online platform may sound quite normal, and that this idea is newsworthy may appear rather strange, but here in China it’s a first and hence its news.

From a Chinese perspective this is a first, and who will be the first person to buy a plane online? The media attention would be of great value to anyone looking to become ‘famous’, however for many, this much public scrutiny is unlikely to be welcomed. So how did it go?

On 12th September, six light aircraft appeared on the ‘Taobao auction’ website, one of them had an initial bid of 1 RMB placed on it, another second-hand helicopter had a buy now price of 3.53 million RMB, the rest all had bid prices of several Million RMB.

According to the media, the aircraft with an initial bid price of 1 RMB was a Jabiru J-160C from Australia, but within 16 minutes the bid price was up to one million RMB from a total of 24 bidders. After 66 bids, it reached the final deal price of 1.91 million RMB, higher than the seller’s expectation of 1.35 million.

Taobao requires any bidder to have 2,000 RMB deposit in their account before they can make a bid, and the buyer can still refuse to pay the remainder of the money if they are dissatisfied after viewing the aircraft. The Chinese love of gambling definitely paid off in this case, and demonstrates how starting low, is perhaps physiologically a better sales approach than setting the initial asking price too high.

What is still not clear in this case is who the buyer is, as they have not released their details, so being famous is properly not their objective. What is known is that to earn a private pilot’s license can cost anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 RMB, and a great deal of flying hours. Even when you have a license, you will still need to submit a flight plan 48 hours in advance to the authorities before being given the OK to take off, and then you can only fly below 1,000 metres.

The idea of owning a plane, and bidding for it online may well appeal to many, but the reality here is that winning the bid is just the start of a very complex and occasionally fraught path to enjoying your winnings.


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