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Mainland's first private heliport cleared for take-off


AFTER years of turbulence an entrepreneur is set for take-off with the mainland's first privately owned heliport to service his Sino-Russian cargo transport business.

Funing airport, scheduled to open next September, will cover 130,000 square metres on the outskirts of the city of Suifenhe in Heilongjiang and will service up to eight cargo-carrying helicopters. Construction began in August, but the entire project almost never left the ground.

Entrepreneur Wang Xuewen first realised in 1993 the potential for a fast method of transporting Heilongjiang's fresh vegetables and fruit across the Russian border where such produce was lacking.

According to the China Youth Daily, Mr Wang then decided to personally raise the funds needed to build a heliport solely for the purpose of transporting perishable goods back and forth from Russia since it would be impossible to obtain government funding.

After he found an airport to rent space from in Russia, the Civil Airlines Administration of China said it was entirely out of the question for a private investor to have a cross-border aviation route.

Mr Wang continued to fight for his dream and spent four years building contacts within the relevant ministries.

Finally, in May last year, Mr Wang's Falida Trade Company received approval from the State Council, the PLA General Staff Department and the city of Suifenhe to build the heliport.

More than 100 million yuan (HK$93 million) has been invested in the heliport.

Beijing-based San Nengda Science and Trade Group has put in 60 million yuan to bring the total investment to 102 million yuan.

The two mainland companies have also formed an airline joint venture called Blue Sky Aviation Company with a Russian company based in the border city of Khabarovsk.

The main products involved in the trade will be fresh fruit and vegetables grown on the mainland and Russia's fresh seafood.

It is expected to take no more than five minutes to transport the produce from Funing airport to Russia, avoiding land transport bottlenecks on the border.