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Bird's-eye views are coming to Tibet

By Palden Nyima, Daqiong in Lhasa Source:China Daily 2017-05-18

A helicopter tour service will be launched in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet autonomous region, in August to allow tourists to view the plateau landscape from the sky.

Tourism companies have been considering aerial tours in Lhasa for years, but the Potala Tourism and Culture Group is the first to get approval for flights in a designated airspace.

The airspace covers a part of Lhasa and the Namtso Lake area, 240 kilometers from the capital, according to Dawa Phuntsok, president of the tour group.

The lake, called Heavenly Lake in the Tibetan language, is one of three holy lakes in Tibet.

Tours will be provided by four Eurocopter H125s and two Bell 505s. The first two helicopters will be delivered in June, with the first flight scheduled for August, Dawa Phuntsok said.

Twenty-one pilots from the Tibetan ethnic group - including seven women - along with seven helicopter maintenance specialists, received eight months of training in Jiangsu and Yunnan provinces.

Meanwhile, a general aviation airport covering an area of nearly 4 hectares is under construction in Lhasa's Tsechogling Valley. It will be able to accommodate 30 helicopters and is expected to be operational in late July, he said.

Liu Jie, vice-president of Ruoer General Aviation Development Group - the Nanjing-based company responsible for purchasing the aircraft and arranging pilot training - said helicopter services are necessary in Tibet, as "air tours are more time-efficient and convenient than land transportation".

"Using helicopters for travel services, as well as for medical rescue, is essential for Lhasa to be an international tourism city," Liu said.

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