World''s second highest airport to open in May 2008 in Kangding

The world''s second highest airport, in China''s southwestern province of Sichuan, will open next May, after a successful trial flight over the weekend. Located in the ethnic Tibetan area of Kangding, the new airport is at 4,280 metres (14,042 ft) above sea level. It is second only to Qamdo airport in Tibet, which is 4,334 metres above sea level, the general administration of the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) said on its website.

On Sunday 28 October, an Air China Airbus A319 landed safely at the Yuan960 million ($128.5 million) airport, which 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 than Kangding. The government hopes the airport will bring in tourists and investment.

Air China will operate flights from Sichuan''s provincial capital Chengdu to Kangding on 1 May 2008, to coincide with the week-long Labour Day holiday. The flight from Chengdu will take just over half an hour. The airport is designed to handle 330,000 passengers a year and can handle Boeing 737s and Airbus A319s.

China has a multi-billion-dollar programme to revamp old airports and build new ones, especially in the country''s remote areas, as a way of boosting local economies. Last year, China opened Tibet''s third airport in Nyingchi, nearly 3,000 metres (9,850 ft) above sea level. The airport at Tibet''s capital, Lhasa, is 3,650 metres (11,975 ft) above sea level. All high-altitude airports have extra long runways to give the aircraft more time to take off in the thin air.