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China plans to invest 1.5 trillion yuan (USD$228.2 billion) in the aviation industry, building 45 airports and adding 700 new commercial planes, over the next five years to meet surging demand, according to ChinaDaily.com.cn.

The figure is half a trillion yuan more than that for the previous five years, Li Jiaxiang, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) was quoted telling a news conference.

By 2015, the country is expected to have 220 commercial airports and its fleet size will expand to more than 4,500 planes, according to Li.

China currently has 175 commercial airports in operation and keeps more than 2,600 aircraft in its fleet. In the next five years, the commercial aircraft fleet, which stood at more than 1,600 in 2010, will expand by some 700 planes, a scale similar to the growth in the past five years.

The number of commercial airports will increase by 45, mostly regional, in the next five years, compared with the 33 new airports completed in the past five years.

Despite concerns over losses reported by many regional airports, the construction process will be speeded up over the next five years, he said.

The airport in Huai’an, Jiangsu province, which opened for operations in 2010, has attracted 61 foreign-invested companies to settle in the city, while an airport in remote Tengchong county in Yunnan province boosted local tourism, with the county’s GDP rising 56 percent since it opened in 2009.

Also, after a magnitude 7.1 earthquake shook Yushu in Qinghai province, killing 2,687 people, the local airport played a major role in disaster relief. Airlines transported nearly 3,000 injured people for treatment and prevented the death toll from rising further, he was quoted saying. – More at www.chinadaily.com.cn

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