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Russian Plane Stunt to Attract Tourists

Watching a beautiful landscape and fighter planes in a breathtaking performance the combination is making tourism officials in Hunan Province drool.


Zhangjiajie, one of the top tourism spots in Central China, thinks plenty of people will come to see 10 Russian fighter planes, including SU-30s and SU-27s, give a demonstration on March 17-19.


A SU-27 plans to fly through Tianmen Cave, the highest natural water-eroded cave in the world. It runs north-south with a height of 131 meters, a width of 57 meters and a depth of 60 meters. It is 28 meters wide at its narrowest.


"We have prepared for this flight performance for nearly two years," said Ye Wenzhi, planner of the performance, which is expected to cost about 52 million yuan (US$6.4 million).


Ye did a similar stunt at Zhangjiajie in 1999. This time, though, people have expressed more concern about the safety issues involved, so Ye has responded. "We have invited experts to make a comprehensive investigation," Ye said.


To prevent any loss caused by bad weather, Ye bought an insurance policy worth a record 2.7 million yuan (US$333,000) from Ping An of China.


If the performance is postponed because of weather, the organizing committee will receive 1 million yuan (US$123,000) a day.


Another factor involved is Sino-Russian relations.


"This year is the Year of Russia in China," said He Tongxin, vice- governor of Hunan Province. "It is expected that this performance will strengthen the friendship between China and Russia."


"I hope that this performance will be a big leap forward for the Zhangjiajie tourism industry," said Ye, who also manages a tourism company.


The previous flying stunt helped bring in 2.5 billion yuan (US$308 million) of tourism revenue to Zhangjiajie for the following three years. Ye expected the influence of the performance this year to be even further-reaching.


About 20,000 tickets will be sold for the three-day performance. VIP tickets for the event are selling for as much as 6,800 yuan (US$840).


(China Daily February 28, 2006)


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