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Air China to Offer Beijing-New York Flight over North Pole
Air China announced yesterday it would resume its Beijing-New York non-stop flight on September 27, slashing three hours off the journey time for passengers.

The company will introduce Boeing 747-400 planes on the long-distance route, which it last used in 1998.

Aircraft will not follow the previous Far East air route through Russia, Alaska and Canada but travel via regions closer to the North Pole.

It is a landmark move for the company as Air China will be the first Chinese airline operating formal commercial flights through polar regions -- although China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines successfully conducted trial polar flights in 2001 using Boeing 777 and Airbus 340 planes.

The polar route will also cut fuel consumption and improve aviation safety for Air China, airlines source said.

Over the past weekend, Air China conducted a trial polar flight using a Boeing 747-400 ahead of the resumption of non-stop flights, and results showed the polar route to be safe and convenient.

Gao Dianbang, captain of the trial polar flight, said the airflow over the North Pole is very smooth, so passengers would experience less jolting than the previous air route.

Air traffic conditions over the Polar Regions are very good in comparison with other crowded cross-Pacific air routes, Gao said.

There are only 40 or so flights operating across the region in any given week at present.

Despite the smoother flight, Gao admitted the special weather conditions did pose some challenges to aircraft.

The strong magnetic field in the North Pole might affect the telecommunication equipment of the plane, and its temperature of minus 60 to 70 0C require better fuel-burning standards.

But through successful cooperation with jet manufacturers and aviation administrators, Gao said those problems had been properly overcome, securing safe operations.

Air China first started the Beijing-San Francisco-New York flight in 1981 but stopped in 1998 after a deal was struck with American Northwest Airlines to share flights along the trans-Pacific air routes.

American Northwest Airlines stopped its non-stop operation between China and the United States in May, and decided to transfer all passengers heading to the US via Tokyo.

(China Daily August 20, 2002)

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