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World's Second Highest Airport to Open this Month

Reporting by Ben Blanchard;
Editing by Nick MacfieThe Washington Post/Reuters
October 20, 2008

BEIJING (Reuters) -- The world's second highest airport, in an ethnically Tibetan part of China's southwestern province of Sichuan, will open this month, a Chinese newspaper said on Monday.

The airport, in the mainly Tibetan area of Kangding, is 4,280 meters (14,040 ft) above sea level, second only to Qamdo airport in Tibet at 4,334 meters.

The Chengdu Daily said China Eastern Airlines would start regular flights to Kangding before the end of October, flying from Yunnan's provincial capital Kunming to Kangding via Sichuan's capital, Chengdu.

The airport had originally been scheduled to open in May. The newspaper did not explain the delay, but Tibet and other Tibetan parts of China experienced violent unrest this spring.

The 960 million yuan ($140.6 million) airport is in a poor area near the scenic Gongga Mountains.

It 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 government hopes the airport will bring in much needed tourist dollars and investment.

The airport is designed to handle 330,000 passengers a year and can accommodate 120-seat Boeing 737s and Airbus A319s.

China has embarked upon a multi-billion-dollar program in recent years to revamp old airports and build new ones, especially in the country's remote west, as a way of boosting the economy.

In 2006, China opened Tibet's third airport, in Nyingchi, which is nearly 3,000 meters above sea level.

($1=6.828 Yuan) and students from the University of Vienna.

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