by Xin Dingding, China Daily, 2011-02-25 —
45 airports will be built, 700 planes to join the fleet as blueprint drafted
BEIJING – China plans to invest 1.5 trillion yuan ($228.2 billion) in the aviation industry, building 45 airports and adding 700 new commercial planes, over the next five years to meet surging demand, a top regulator said on Thursday.
The figure is half a trillion yuan more than that for the previous five years, Li Jiaxiang, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), told a news conference.
By 2015, the country is expected to have 220 commercial airports and its fleet size will expand to more than 4,500 planes, according to Li.
"The ability of the civil aviation sector to serve the national economy and the public will be further strengthened," Li said.
The country currently has 175 commercial airports in operation and keeps more than 2,600 aircraft in its fleet, he said.
In the next five years, the commercial aircraft fleet, which stood at more than 1,600 in 2010, will expand by some 700 planes, a scale similar to the growth in the past five years.
The number of commercial airports will increase by 45, mostly regional, in the next five years, compared with the 33 new airports completed in the past five years.
Despite concerns over losses reported by many regional airports, the construction process will be speeded up over the next five years, he said.
Li admitted that 130 out of the 175 airports reported "a rather small amount" in losses last year, totaling 1.68 billion yuan. But "regional airports are public infrastructures, and their construction should not be profit-driven", he said.
Besides, regional airports have brought large economic and social benefits to local communities, which "is why many local governments are still willing to subsidize their operations, despite losses", he said.
The airport in Huai’an, Jiangsu province, which opened for operations in 2010, has attracted 61 foreign-invested companies to settle in the city, while an airport in remote Tengchong county in Yunnan province boosted local tourism, with the county’s GDP rising 56 percent since it opened in 2009. . . .