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Military space cut down

(Shanghai Daily)

08:30, September 02, 2011

China'S military aviation authority is to release more airspace for civil aviation in a bid to reduce flight delays.

When it opened military airspace for a total of 170,000 civil flights in the first half of this year there was a reduction of 6.38 million kilometers of flying distance, Yang Yujun, spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense, told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday.

"The military will keep supporting the civil aviation to reduce the flight delays that are affecting many passengers, including me," Yang said.

The average on-schedule rate of domestic flights was 76.89 percent in the second half of 2010, compared with 81.90 percent in the whole of 2009, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

However, domestic passengers say they felt the actual rate of planes leaving and arriving on time was far lower than the official numbers.

Domestic airlines would welcome the measure because the lack of sufficient airspace had been one of the main reasons for delays, Zhang Wuan, a spokesman for Shanghai Spring Airlines, said yesterday.

China's civil aviation industry had been developing rapidly over the past 20 years, while the airspace for civil use was almost unchanged, said Fu Shan, professor of the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics of Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Xinhua news agency said that the country had a total 1,604 planes in use for civil aviation purposes by the end of last year, more than double the number in use in 2005.

China so far has a total of 9.98 million square kilometers of usable airspace, including 32 percent for civil aviation and about 24 percent for military use, according to the China National Airspace Technology Laboratory.

Fu said the military effort should be able to effectively reduce the number of delays, since it controlled a large part of the country's airspace.

"It is natural for the military to release its airspace with less pressure on the country's air forces and the improvement in management skills," Fu said.

The aviation authority has been working hard to improve the average on-schedule rate of domestic flights such as preparing standby planes at airports to cope with delays. Li Jiaxiang, director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, asked domestic airlines to set aside 2 percent of capacity as backup to ensure enough planes to cope with delays. He also ordered major carriers to have a plane on standby at airports in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.

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