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September 20, 2012

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City among 4 stops for helicopter shuttle

SHANGHAI residents may be able to use helicopters to shuttle between neighboring cities under a plan released yesterday by a general aviation company.

The company wants to build an air traffic network for Yangtze River Delta cities with a stop in Shanghai's suburban Songjiang District.

It would cost about 2,000 yuan (US$317) per hour for a passenger to take a helicopter to any of the four stops in Shanghai, Nanjing, Suzhou and Shao-xing, said Lu Yong, chairman of the Ruohang General Aviation Group in Nanjing. A 15-minute sightseeing tour will cost about 800 yuan.

"We plan to build the Shanghai stop in Songjiang to avoid the busy flights at Shanghai's Hongqiao and Pudong international airports," Lu told Shanghai Daily yesterday. Final approval from China's civil aviation regulator is expected to take about a year, he added.

Two helipads have been built, in Nanjing and Suzhou, while the helipad in Shaoxing is under construction.

Lu said the site has been chosen for a helipad in Songjiang that will include a terminal building, aprons and gas stations. It is designed to be capable of handling more than 60 helicopters in the future. The helicopters will have a single engine with four to eight seats, according to the plan.

"It takes about two hours to shuttle between Yangtze River Delta cities by high speed railway, but only about 30 minutes to reach the nearby helipads from Shanghai by helicopter," Lu said.

Yangtze River Delta cities have few elevations, so it will be quite safe to take helicopters in the region, he added.

China is working to open low-altitude airspace to more general aviation aircraft like helicopters and private jets, according to Li Jiaxiang, director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China. A trial operation in southern Guangdong and central Hubei provinces will be expanded to northeast and south-central China this year and will cover the whole country in 2015, Li has said.

China's low-altitude airspace, below 1,000 meters, is controlled by the air force and the regulator.

"The cost of flying and the price will be lower if the authority loosens controls on low-altitude airspace in the future," Lu said.

A Shanghai hotel's plan to use sightseeing helicopters in the city's Bund area is being considered by the authority.


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