Fly from the sky: World's highest airport planned

Fly from the sky: World's highest airport planned

At 4,436 meters, Nagqu airport will play a major role in developing Tibet's infrastructure
Nagqu Airport, Tibet
After the completion of Nagqu Airport in 2015, travelers will be able to fly directly to Tibet's sweeping grassland and snow-capped mountains.

After wowing the world with the construction of a nine-runway airport in Beijing, China's aviation industry is set to conquer new heights -- a civilian airport in Nagqu (那曲), a Tibetan county 325 kilometers northeast of Lhasa (拉萨), the provincial capital.

With ground scheduled to be broken later this year, Nagqu Airport will stand at 4,436 meters above sea level and be the world's highest airport upon its completion in 2015.

According to Xu Bo (徐波), head of Tibet Administration of Civil Aviation, study results guarantee the feasibility and safety for civilian aircraft to operate at such an extreme altitude.

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People's Daily reports that China already has the world's three highest airports: Qamdo Bamda Airport (邦达机场) at 4,334 meters, Ngari Gunsa Airport (昆莎机场) at 4,273 meters and Kangding Airport (康定机场) at 4,230 meters.

Improving the Tibetan infrastructure

The sixth airport to be built in Tibet, Nagqu Airport is expected to occupy about 2.4 million square meters and will shorten the journey between Nagqu and Lhasa from four hours by road to 40 minutes by air. The airport project will cost RMB 1.8 billion (about US$290 million).

Construction of Nagqu Airport plays a key role in China's ongoing effort to improve Tibet's infrastructure and economy.

"The building of the airport will pose a positive impact on Nagqu's economy," said Nagqu district administration officer, Tan Yongshou (谭永寿), in 2010 after the proposal for Nagqu Airport was sent to Beijing.

"Qinghai-Tibet Highway, Qinghai-Tibet Railway and this airport will form a multi-level traffic system in Nagqu," added Tan.

Xu Bo said that the completion of the world's highest airport will satisfy the needs of domestic and international travelers, and lay a foundation for Tibet to launch international air routes to other Asian countries.

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China's central government is pouring billions of yuan into improving the connection between the remote province and the rest of China.

In addition to Nagqu Airport, the construction of a railway linking Lhasa and Nyingchi county in southeast Tibet, and the renovation of Nyingchi Airport and Lhasa Gonggar Airport, are expected to begin in 2012.