New aircraft to boost South Pole capacities

Updated: 2013-12-19 08:26

(China Daily USA)

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China is strengthening its capacities in scientific research and emergency response in the South Pole with plans to buy its first fixed-wing aircraft for the region in 2014.

"The Basler BT-67 produced by a US aircraft maker is our choice. If everything goes well, the first flight is expected on an Antarctic expedition in 2015," said Qu Tanzhou, director of the State Oceanic Administration's Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration.

The aircraft, estimated to cost about 90 million yuan ($14.8 million), is used for intracontinental operations and is suitable for long distance transport between Antarctic stations, within 1,000 km.

"Once the aircraft is purchased, an air network can be formed through international cooperation, which can realize quick entry into the inland Antarctic region," Qu said.

In the network, China will provide intracontinental services and cooperate with other countries with intercontinental services.

With the aircraft expected to join the South Pole exploration, Qu said China will consider building airports at Zhongshan and Kunlun stations.

Yang Huigen, director of the Polar Research Institute of China, said purchasing aircraft and building airports will bring the country's Antarctic expedition into a new period with remote sensing surveys and air sample collection possible.

An air connection between Zhongshan and Kunlun stations can also be established, Yang said.

- Wang Qian

(China Daily USA 12/19/2013 page5)