China / Government

New air routes set to alleviate congestion

By Zhao Lei (China Daily) Updated: 2015-04-08 06:54

Nation is expected to handle more than 10 million flights in 2017, official says

China aims to handle its serious air traffic congestion and flight delays by opening 10 one-way air passages, senior civil aviation officials said.

"Over the past 10 years, the number of flights using China's airspace has continued to increase 10 percent year-on-year, but our airspace that can be used by civil airlines is only one-third of that in the United States and the number of our air traffic controllers is about half of that of the US," said Che Jinjun, director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China's air traffic management bureau.

The limited airspace and shortage of air traffic professionals have resulted in severe delays, he added, noting that under the current airspace management mechanism, one feasible solution is to optimize current flight routes.

Wang Zhiqing, deputy head of the Civil Aviation Administration, said the nation's air traffic management system is expected to handle more than 10 million flights in 2017.

"The current air traffic management system makes it very difficult to spare a large area of airspace for airlines, so we have to make the best use of the existing resources," he added.

Che said: "We plan to soon open 10 one-way air passages that cover air links between Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Within the coming three to five years, we will adjust major flight routes across the country."

The Civil Aviation Administration will also negotiate with the Chinese military to open more routes for destinations that have busy air transport, according to Che.

A one-way air passage allows commercial aircraft to travel to and return from a destination in two separate air lanes, which are usually called a one-way route, instead of the current two-way routes in which pilots have to adjust altitude to ensure that aircraft in all directions can fly safely, said the administration.

The CAAC opened the Guangzhou-Lanzhou Air Passage on Thursday, saying the move would create a large-capacity air channel between Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, and Lanzhou, Gansu's provincial capital.

The passage's opening would benefit about 400 domestic flights each day while facilitating trips to or from 32 airports in seven provincial regions such as Hunan and Chongqing as well as the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions, the administration said.

The Guangzhou-Lanzhou Air Passage is the third such air channel in China, following the Beijing-Kunming and Beijing-Guangzhou passages.

The Beijing-Kunming Air Passage was formed in December 2013 to facilitate more than 460 domestic flights at 54 airports in nine provincial regions. The Beijing-Guangzhou passage was established in February to better serve flights along the country's coastal areas.

Zhao Yifei, a professor specializing in air traffic management at Civil Aviation University of China, said the two-way route system must be changed or it would continue to hinder the civil aviation sector's development.

"The Civil Aviation Administration has to optimize the use of the limited airspace, so the one-way route is a very reasonable choice for it," he said, explaining that the creation of more one-way routes will enable airlines to open new flights and reduce the flying distance between busy airports, thus saving costs on fuel.

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