Air China has launched a non-stop route from Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) to Yushu Batang Airport (YUS) in the province of Qinghai in order to support post-disaster reconstruction in the earthquake-stricken area of Yushu.
A devastating 7.1 magnitude earthquake, as reported by the Chinese Earthquake Administration, struck the region on April 14, leaving more than 2,000 people dead and thousands more injured and homeless. Because the airport is located in a remote, mountainous region, access is challenged due to inclement weather and airport restrictions that allow daytime-only aircraft operations. This has made aid delivery to the region difficult and unpredictable.
According to the airline, the new route is expected to be extremely helpful in rebuilding Yushu, where Air China says air transportation is vital to successfully reconstruct damage from the earthquake.
The airline is using Airbus 319 equipment for the three-times weekly flights, which are operating under the flight number CA1275 for the outbound flight and CA1276 for the inbound flight. Its A319s are equipped with Required Navigation Performance (RNP) technology tailored for flights into airports surrounded by mountains.
Flights to Yushu depart from Beijing at 7:15am and arrive at 10:30am. Return flights depart from Yushu at 11:20am and arrive in Beijing at 2:25pm. The fligths will be operated every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Located at an altitude of 3,905 meters (12,808 feet), Yushu Batang Airport has the second highest elevation of any airport in China, according to Air China. The mountainous terrain surrounding the airport environment requires precision-navigation flightpaths which the RNP-capable navigation equipment installed on the Air China A319s is able to provide.
The RNP flightpaths at Yushu — developed and validated with the assistance of GE Aviation subsidiary Naverus, which has pioneered the development of RNP — allow aircraft to land and take off at the high-altitude airport in periods of poor weather and reduced visibility when conventional navigation methods are ineffective. The new navigation procedures will immediately improve the reliability and frequency of relief flights carrying aid, humanitarian workers and government officials to the stricken area high in the Qingzang Plateau, according to Naverus.
Air China was certified with RNP technology at Yushu Airport on April 29, which provided the opportunity to launch the new route.
The airline says it has been making major efforts to assist with earthquake relief and post-disaster reconstruction. On the same day that the earthquake in Yushu occurred, Air China created a relief plan and immediately sent a group to the earthquake-affected area. Since then, Air China has provided urgent charter flights 11 times and regular charter flights 24 times, delivering 989 relief staff and 142 tons of relief materials to Yushu.
The airline says it also has tried to help the morale of residents of Yushu. On Children’s Day, Air China provided free tickets for Yushu’s children to visit other cities, hoping to relieve some of the distress caused by the earthquake.
According to Xu Jianqiang, Air China’s chief economist, Air China has to involve itself in the efforts for earthquake relief because it is the only carrier in China boasting the national flag.
The airline says that in previous earthquake-relief efforts it has always rapidly implemented relief efforts in the affected areas.