Nyingchi Airport, the third civil airport in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, began operations when a Boeing 757 landed on Friday.
The plane left Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, at 7:30 a.m. and arrived at Nyingchi Airport an hour and a half later, according to flight captain Wei Yiqiang.
"The weather was fine, so the flight turned out to be much less difficult than the test flight," Wei said.
A brief ceremony marking the opening was attended by Zhang Qingli, secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), and Li Jun, deputy head of General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC).
Cering Wangmo, a Tibetan woman, said it was the first aircraft she had ever seen.
"I am considering making a trip to Chengdu by air sometime," she said.
The flight sowed the seed of a dream in Lhaba Cering, a primary school student. "I want to be a pilot. It must be great to fly a plane."
Flights will be available every Friday between Chengdu and Nyingchi, with a one-way fare costing 1,380 yuan, according to AirChina Southwest Branch Company, the service provider.
Nyingchi Airport, the third civilian airport in Tibet after Lhasa and Qamdo, has a 3,000-meter runway and is surrounded by mountains. It was completed in April this year.
Built at a cost of 780 million yuan (US$96.18 million), including investment by the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC), the airport is 2,949 meters above sea level, lower than the other two civil airports, with a designed annual passenger flow of 120,000.
Nyingchi Prefecture, covering 117,000 square kilometers and bordering India and Myanmar, is known for its humid and mild climate, scenery and rich natural resources.
About 120 kilometers from the Nyingchi Airport is the Yarlung Zangbo River Grand Canyon, the world's largest canyon.
Because of its location, the airport is considered difficult to fly into. Meteorological records show it will have about 100 operational days a year.
(Xinhua News Agency September 2, 2006)