Xinjiang to offer sightseeing flights

By Mao Weihua in Urumqi and Luo Wangshu in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-30 07:34

Tourists will soon be able to take sightseeing flights over the country's largest provincial region, the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

The administration said the pilot program will allow the region's general aviation companies to run aerial tours within a radius of 40 to 300 kilometers from the takeoff point.

The review process for charter flight applications will be simplified to make the process more efficient, it added.

Under current regulations, air programs usually run within a 40 km radius and it takes about a month to complete the review of an application.

"The program will boost the region's low-altitude airspace tourism," said Fan Hongdong, head of general aviation at the CAAC's Xinjiang bureau.

"It will take less time to process charter flight applications," Fan said. "Xinjiang is a large area with many tourist spots scattered in various places. The program aims to lower the threshold for aviation companies to run sightseeing projects, and to expand the area available for such projects."

The bureau said it is working on a draft regulation, which is expected to be released at the end of May.

Xinjiang, with an area of 1.66 million square km, is home to nine general aviation companies and 18 civil aviation airports.

The region aims to develop low-altitude flights to boost tourism by offering sightseeing aircraft tours and hot-air balloon rides.

The regional tourism bureau has listed a number of potential routes for tourists looking to experience the region from the air.

It prioritized the development of low-altitude tourism in its list of the region's top-100 development programs, published in 2015.

"The prospects for low-altitude tourism in Xinjiang are immeasurable," said Li Jidong, Party chief of Xinjiang's tourism administration. "The sector is expanding at a rate that is much faster than those in other provincial areas."

Tao Runwen, deputy general manager of Xinjiang Airport Group, said low-altitude flights will enable tourists to overcome travel difficulties associated with the region's size.

"It will help tourists save time that they would have spent on the roads and shorten the distance they have to travel. They can also enjoy an aerial view of the beautiful scenery along the way," Tao added.

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