Tibet, with an average elevation of more than 4,000 meters, is the world’s known “Roof of the World”. It covers an area of more than 1.2 million sq. km. and has a permanent population of more than 3 million. The land is large but sparsely populated, so transportation is big challenging. As restricted by the complex terrain and unique climate, Tibet was once regarded by the international aviation community as an “air-restricted zone”. Flying to Tibet is the dream of the civil aviation and the vision of the new generation.
Ten years later, on March 2, 1965, the plane from Beijing via Chengdu safely landed at the first airport in Tibet, Lhasa Damxung Airport. Then Tibet officially opened to air services. Lhasa Airport, Chamdo Airport and Nyingchi Airport, as well as Ngari Airport and Shigatse Airport.
Lhasa Gonggar Airport
On November 23, 1966, flights to Tibet were transferred to Gonggar Airport.
Lhasa Gonggar Airport is one of the earliest high-altitude airports in the world to open-air traffic. It is a hub airport in Tibet and the only airport in the region that is open to international.
In 2008, the Civil Aviation Administration of Tibet completed the navigational lighting project of Lhasa Gonggar Airport within 50 days, ending Tibet’s 43-year history of no night flights.
It is situated about 62 km from Lhasa downtown which will take about one and a half hour drive to get to Lhasa city. Gonggar Airport manages non-stop flights with Chengdu, Chongqing Diqing, Xian, Bamda (a town of Chamdo), and Kathmandu (capital of Nepal). At the same time, it also manages direct flights with Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Kunming which will make stops at Chengdu, Chongqing, Xining, Xian, and Diqing.
On April 28, 1995, Bangda Airport in Qamdo was opened, in the history of mankind civil aviation create another miracle. Tibet has since then got its first branch airport. It used to be the highest civilian airport in the world and the farthest airport from the central cities in the nation.
The operation of Chamdo Airport is the miracle of the human civilian aviation. It owns the longest runway of the world and far from the Chamdo Town about 140 km. It enjoys an elevation of 4,334 meters above sea level which makes the weather here too bad. So, the flights often arrive delayed.
The domestic public RNP AR flight program was successfully used at Qamdo Bangda Airport, and the domestically-made The Engineered Materials Arresting System (EMAS) was successfully constructed at Nyingchi Mainling Airport, which improved the security margin.
Nyingchi Mainling Airport is the third airport in the region, which officially opened on September 1, 2006. It is one of the airports with the most complex global clearance environment, meteorological conditions, flight environment, and navigation station layout. It is the first time to adopt RNP precision navigation technology in the country.
It is the lowest airport in Tibet which is less than 3,000 meters. So, visitors maybe prefer to take the flights to Nyingchi Airport. But this airport only manages flights with Chengdu, Chongqing, and Lhasa which makes it hard to take. If you have a chance to take the flight to Nyingchi Airport, please remember to keep your mind clear and open your eyes to the outside window. You will be marveled at the gorgeous sceneries of the southeastern Tibet.
Shigatse Airport is the fifth civilian airport in Tibet which promotes the communication in Tibet region. It is built near the world’s tallest peak Mount Everest which makes it more easy to travel to Mount Everest, Tashilhunpo Monastery and other famous sights in Shigatse. Flights will take only 2 hours and 20 minutes from Chengdu to Shigatse and 30 minutes from Lhasa.
On July 1, 2010, Ngari, on the horizon, officially opened to its air navigation. Affected by the high altitude, thin air, and other climates, during the early stage of navigation, flights to Ngari Gunsa Airport reduced their load significantly, and in the worst case, the flight could carry less than 30 people.
Ngari on the horizon is more than 1,400 kilometers away from Lhasa. Even today on the paved road, the fastest journey takes more than 20 hours from Lhasa. After the opening of the airport, the distance between Ngari and Lhasa were shortened to two hours.
Here, civil aviation has opened a fast track for local people and it has transported 55 passengers on stretchers in 10 years of navigation.
The northwestern extent of our (Ngari Gunsa) airport is located above the seasonally frozen earth layer. In summer, the boundary will be thawed and will cause frost heave in winter, so the station innovates new technology of rolling net barbed circle fence to solves the problem of seasonally frozen soil.
Air traffic and Cargo delivery
Since the opening of air traffic, all five airports in Tibet have connected 60 cities with 120 routes, ensuring the safe take-off and landing of more than 400,000 flights, transporting more than 45 million passengers, and guaranteeing more than 500,000 tons of cargo. The perfect aviation network assists in entering and leaving Tibet more smoothly. Every day from dawn to late night, there are more than 140 flights and more than 15,000 passengers in the region, exit and enter from here.