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Work on Capital's New Airport Set to Go

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Work on capital's new airport set to go

Construction of the capital's second airport is likely to start this year, a year later than the civil aviation industry had expected.

The new airport, with a planned capacity to handle at least 60 million passengers a year, is expected to shoulder part of the traffic pressure on Beijing Capital International Airport, head of Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) Li Jiaxiang said on Tuesday. The capital airport is now the world's second largest in terms of passenger traffic after handling 73.9 million passengers last year, a number close to its planned capacity of 76 million passengers by 2015.

"It is very urgent that we start building the second airport in Beijing now," Li said on the sidelines of a civil aviation work conference in Beijing.

"It is now impossible to add even one more flight to the tight daily schedule of the capital airport."

All preparations are in place now, and the project's commencement only needs a nod from the State Council, said Li, who estimated the investment needed for the project will be "at least 100 billion yuan (US$15 billion)".

Li did not elaborate on the new airport's location, but earlier reports quoted civil aviation officials as saying that it will be in Daxing district in southern Beijing.

The capital's second airport is one of 11 new airports that the CAAC plans to build in 2011.

Some 55 billion yuan will be invested in airport construction and expansion this year, Li said. China already has 175 airports for civil aviation.

Meanwhile, the administration estimated that this year 290 new planes will be added to the fleet while 67 old planes will be withdrawn from service. The fleet is expected to expand to 1,827 planes, up from 1,604 at the end of 2010, according to the CAAC statistics.

Wang Changshun, deputy head of the administration, told the conference that as well as its expansion plans, the CAAC's other priority this year is to prevent major accidents, hijacking and bombings from happening.

Last year, China's remarkable safety record of about 2,100 days - or 69 months - without a fatal accident ended after a Henan Airlines jet crashed near the runway of Yichun's Lindu Airport in August, killing 42 people.

Wang said that the CAAC will strictly monitor pilots' qualifications to ensure flight safety.

The industry has also invested at least 2 billion yuan in improving anti-terrorism facilities to strengthen security, according to Li.

The CAAC estimated that the air transport industry will ship 300 million passengers and 6.2 million tons of cargo this year.

Last year, 267 million passengers traveled by air, up 16 percent from 2009, and 5.57 million tons of cargo were transported by air, up 25 percent year-on-year.

The industry earned a profit of 43.7 billion yuan in 2010, three times that of 2009, according to CAAC statistics.

(China Daily January 12, 2011)

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