Tibet's Nagqu Airport To Become "World's Highest"

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China has plans to build almost 100 new airports by 2020 and one of them planned for completion in 2014, Nagqu Dagring Airport, may claim the title of highest airport in the world. The Tibetan Branch of the China Civil Aviation Administration says the airport's construction will begin in 2011 at Nagqu prefecture in Tibet and sit at an altitude of 4,436 meters (about 14,553 feet, or about 2.75 miles above sea level). Tibet may hold the current "highest commercial airport" title with its Bamda Airport, which sits at 4,334 meters (about 14,219 feet) and hosts an 18,000-foot runway. The landing altitude is obviously well above the 6,000- to 8,000-foot cabin pressure altitudes set by many commercial airlines and business jets. Details about the coming Nagqu airport runway are scarce, but one official said the airport itself will cover an area of about 245 hectares, which is about 0.94 square miles, and construction costs could range near $263 million.

China's push for airports is intended to put 80 percent of its population within a 90-minute drive of an airport. Nagqu will be located near the Qinghai-Tibet railway line. Some 400,000 people live in Nagqu. The airport, plus six new rail lines connecting to Beijing, is expected to drive the region's economic growth. Most of Tibet's land sits some 16,000 feet above sea level. China hopes to develop direct air routes from Tibet to neighboring countries.