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August 14, 2012

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Sightseeing helicopters may start flying from hotel helipad on Bund

CHINA'S civil aviation regulator is working on a plan to allow a Shanghai hotel to operate helicopters to pick up and offer sightseeing services to its customers in the city's Bund area, the regulator said yesterday.

The Shanghai Peninsula Hotels plans to build a helipad on its hotel building in the Bund to launch the same kind of helicopter service that has been popular at its Hong Kong branch, the hotel confirmed yesterday.

"We have begun investigating the plan, which must be in accord with both the civil aviation rules and safety considerations," said Shen Zejiang, director of the East China Regional Administration of the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

Shen has met with Michael Kadoorie, chairman of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels, parent company of The Peninsula Hotels, in Shanghai regarding the possibility of the service and location of the helipad.

"There are some difficulties with the plan mainly on air traffic control policies," an official with the bureau told Shanghai Daily yesterday.

The east China bureau also has to apply to the Civil Aviation Administration of China for final approval, he said.

China has not opened low-altitude air traffic to the public on the mainland. That means the hotel would have to apply to the regulator each time it wanted to land or take off - which in each case could take several days for approval.

The hotel in the Bund area is near many high-rises and is covered by strict noise controls, so winning permission to use the helicopter could be very complicated, an official with a domestic business jet company said.

Shanghai has no business that operates helicopters and mainly uses helicopters on police patrols, medical assistance and rescue.

The city has a heliport, the Gaodong Airport, which is China's first helicopter base for sea rescue, close to Pudong International Airport.

Ruijin Hospital also has a helipad on top of its building to receive patients in critical condition. The city police deploys helicopters to monitor traffic on highways, providing quicker solutions to congestion and hazards on the highways.

A civil aviation expert said if the plan is approved in Shanghai, the Peninsula Hotels might copy the operational model of its Hong Kong hotel that has been proved successful.

Hong Kong Peninsula Hotels operates helicopter tours that cost HK$1,388 (US$179) per person, providing a bird's eye view of Victoria Harbor and a brunch at the hotel.


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