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China building world's second highest airport


Chinese engineers have started building the world's second highest airport in China's southwestern province of Sichuan, which is expected to open in 2008, the official Xinhua news agency said on Thursday. The airport, in the mainly ethnically Tibetan area of Kangding, will be 4,280 metres above sea level, second only to Qamdo airport in Tibet, Xinhua said. The 960 million yuan ($120.8 million) airport, able to handle 120-seat Boeing 737s and Airbus A319s, is in an area so remote that Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai, writing more than 1,000 years ago, said it was easier to get to heaven, the report said. The airport, which will be designed to cope with 330,000 passengers annually, was first conceived of 13 years ago, but only given the official go-ahead in May, Xinhua added. China has embarked upon a multi-billion dollar programme in recent years to revamp old airports and build new ones, especially in the country's remote west as a way of boosting the local economy. Last week, China opened Tibet's third airport, in Nyingchi, which is nearly 3,000 metres above sea level. The airport at Tibet's capital, Lhasa, stands at 3,650 metres above sea level. All have extra long runways to give aircraft more time to take off in the thin air.

(Source:BEIJING Reuters, 2006-09-05)