Chop­per tours evoke love and loathing

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By YU RAN in Shang­hai

yu­ran@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Shang­hai’s first low-altitude he­li­copter sight­see­ing tours were tem­po­rar­ily called off by the mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment on Wed­nes­day af­ter lo­cal res­i­dents com­plained of noise pol­lu­tion.

The tours, which proved an im­me­di­ate hit with tourists, be­gan on May 1, with one op­er­a­tor of­fer­ing three scenic routes over dif­fer­ent parts of the city.

But many res­i­dents who live un­der the fly­ing routes quickly posted mis­sives on­line be­rat­ing the high-fre­quency noise of the ro­tors and en­gine.

One man with the sur­name Zhang com­plained that the chop­pers rat­tled his nerves and shook his win­dow­panes, un­fairly dis­rupt­ing the lives of both him­self and his fam­ily, re­ported Xin­min.cn.

Such a ve­he­ment re­sponse forced Shang­hai King­wing Gen­eral Avi­a­tion Co Ltd to stop re­ceiv­ing reser­va­tions from the public on Mon­day.

The project is now pending fur­ther as­sess­ment from the Shang­hai Mu­nic­i­pal Trans­porta­tion Com­mis­sion, Shang­hai En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Bureau and other re­lated de­part­ments.

“As there is no reg­u­la­tion di­rectly re­strict­ing low-altitude he­li­copter tours in terms of safety and noise pol­lu­tion, we may have to wait a while for a clear con­clu­sion,” said Liu Yan­peng, the com­pany’s brand direc­tor.

To min­i­mize the noise, King­wing switched over to us­ing a lower-pow­ered chop­per on the sec­ond day and tried to ap­ply for a per­mit to fly at higher al­ti­tudes of 300 to 400 me­ters, up from the orig­i­nal 200 m.

The pro­gram of­fered flights last­ing from five to 20 min­utes on a choice of three routes: One promised bird’s-eye views of the Lu­ji­azui fi­nan­cial dis­trict, an­other took in the Shang­hai 2010 World Expo site, and the third gave vis­i­tors aerial views of the still-un­der-con­struc­tion Dis­ney­land re­sort in Pudong. Tourists were be­ing charged from 800 yuan ($129) to 2,400 yuan per per­son for the priv­i­lege.

Over the first one and a half days of op­er­a­tion, some 150 tourists stepped onto the com­pany’s sole chop­per en­joy the short scenic trips.

“We are try­ing to sat­isfy the grow­ing de­mand from tourists who al­ready have some luxury trav­el­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, while also mak­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence qui­eter for lo­cal res­i­dents for a win-win re­sult,” said Liu.

In or­der to be cleared to fly in China’s low-altitude airspace (un­der 1,000 m), an air­craft must be reg­is­tered with the lo­cal of­fice of the Civil Avi­a­tion

to Ad­min­is­tra­tion of China, which checks that the model has been ap­proved to op­er­ate in China’s airspace.

Pri­vately owned com­pa­nies like King­wing that run regular com­mer­cial trips have to go through a more com­pli­cated pro­ce­dure as they need a spe­cial per­mit to fly along re­stricted routes for longer pe­ri­ods.

The lat­est doc­u­ment is­sued by the State Coun­cil and the Cen­tral Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sion in 2010 said the coun­try’s low-altitude airspace would be partly opened to pri­vately op­er­ated flights. This was to pro­mote gen­eral avi­a­tion — the use of air­craft other than those flown by air­lines, the mil­i­tary and po­lice.

Com­pared to the United States, the ra­tio of gen­eral avi­a­tion air­craft per capita is very low in China.

“We aim to in­tro­duce he­li­copters and gen­eral avi­a­tion prac­tices from de­vel­oped coun­tries into the daily lives of Chi­nese peo­ple,” said Liu.

Chop­per tours are com­mon in many West­ern coun­tries, where tourists can en­joy bird’s-eye views of iconic sites and land­marks. In the US, they are es­pe­cially popular in New York, Las Ve­gas, San Fran­cisco and Seat­tle.

But this unique tourism prod­uct has only just en­tered the Chi­nese mar­ket in the last two to three years as the lo­cal gov­ern­ment changed tack to give the econ­omy a boost.

“It will bring pos­i­tive ef­fects to the tourism in­dus­try and drive the mod­ern ser­vice sec­tor to a higher level, which will di­rectly lead to re­gional eco­nomic growth,” said Zhu Jinfu, a pro­fes­sor from the Col­lege of Civil Avi­a­tion at Nan­jing Uni­ver­sity of Aero­nau­tics and Astro­nau­tics.

Zhu said it would be bet­ter to de­sign routes away from neigh­bor­hoods and schools dur­ing the day­time to lower the im­pact on res­i­dents’ ears.

CAO LEI FOR CHINA DAILY

Shang­hai’s first Liu Yan­peng, brand direc­tor of Shang­hai King­wing Gen­eral Avi­a­tion Co Ltd

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