TAIYUAN, May 15 (Xinhua) -- North China's Shanxi Province has been striving to boost tourism by developing short-haul flight service to improve its transportation system.
A direct flight linking the city of Lyuliang and the city of Taiyuan, the provincial capital, was launched on April 30. The flight cuts the time for 200-km travel from three hours by car to only 45 minutes.
"Flight tickets are in high demand. Flights in May have almost been fully booked," said Yun Peigang, general manager of Lyuliang Dawu Airport. "It is a new way of traveling, introducing short-distance flights between cities in Shanxi and providing breathtaking views for passengers."
Li Ying, a passenger who has already experienced the new air route, said she only spent 28 yuan (4 U.S. dollars) for a single trip. "It's even cheaper than a bus ticket, and the scenery was magnificent."
A bus ticket between two cities costs 32 yuan, more than the flight ticket.
Li took a Kodiak 100 aircraft, which can seat seven passengers. The aircraft can take off on a 200-meter-long runway and usually flies at an altitude of 3,600 meters, with a minimum altitude of 600 meters.
"It flew very low, and the mountain view from the plane was as clear as if I was sitting beside the window of my home looking down. It was a completely different experience from flying in a big plane," Li said.
Besides Taiyuan-Lyuliang air route, Shanxi has also opened short-haul flights linking Taiyuan and the cities of Datong, Yuncheng and Changzhi on April 30.
All the short-distance air routes are operated by light aircraft with the highest ticket price of 60 yuan.
Shanxi is a demonstration case for the development of the general aviation industry in the country.
"To stimulate the development of general aviation in Shanxi, the province established the Shanxi General Aviation Co. Ltd last year and started to developing short-haul flights," said Shi Lei, chairman of the company.
The province also plans to introduce light aircraft into a wide range of fields, including weather modification, emergency rescue, air patrol, forest fire prevention, environmental monitoring and powerline patrol.
"China's general aviation market has not been fully developed. The future market development space is very huge," Shi said.
Last year, Shanxi issued a layout of general airports between 2018 and 2030. Nearly 70 airports able to provide general aviation services will be built by 2030, and general aviation services will cover all counties in the province.
Shanxi, dubbed as a sea of coal, expects to boost its tourism industry, as well as combine cultural and sport industries with general aviation industry through short-haul airline business, Shi said.
The province has rich cultural heritages and tourism resources. It is home to many well-known attractions, such as Hukou Waterfall on the Yellow River, Taihang Grand Canyon, Yungang Grottoes and Pingyao Ancient City.
So far, low-altitude flight service is available at three attractions of Hukou Waterfall, Yanmen Pass, Taihang Grand Canyon.