Sunday 25 January 2015

Don't look down - China dynamites mountain tops for Hechi airport in the sky

Unable to find anywhere flat to build an airport, the Chinese mountain city of Hechi dynamited the tops of 65 mountains

Malcolm Moore

Published 12/07/2014 | 09:11

Chinese architects levelled several mountain tops to build this spectacular 80m GBP airport runway in Hechi in southern Guangxi province

When it opens at the end of August, pilots will be faced with one of the most nail-biting landings in the world.

A new £85 million airport in the city of Hechi, in the mountains of Guangxi in south west China, has been built at 2,200ft above sea level, on the top of 65 mountains.

"We sent men up with explosives who dug holes and blew up the tops of the mountains. It was the only way to flatten them. Then we filled in the valleys between the mountains," said Wei Yuanzhe, a spokesman for the company managing the airport.

With a runway only 1.3 miles long and 150ft wide, and with a 1,000ft sheer drop on one side, arriving at Hechi will be "like landing on an aircraft carrier", according to the city's mayor.

"We started planning the airport in 2001 and it took us a long time to work out whether it was feasible," said Mr Wei. "Actually we looked at a lot of other locations, but we decided in the end that this was the easiest one."

 He added that there had been no accidents during five years of construction and safety testing. When it opens, Hechi will be a transit stop on the route from Chongqing, in central China, to Haikou in the south.

Until it closed in 1998, pilots landing at Kai Tek airport in Hong Kong had to steer between the city's skyscrapers and then land on a runway jutting out into Victoria harbour.

China also boasts the world's highest altitude civilian airport, the Daoching Yading airport in Garzi, Sichuan, which sits at 14,472ft above sea level.

Meanwhile the Tenzing-Hillary airport in Nepal, a runway 9,200ft-high in the Himalayas, is used by climbers wishing to reach Everest base camp.

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