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Torch plane takes off for Athens

BEIJING, March 29 -- The Olympic Torch plane takes off from Beijing Capital International Airport on Saturday morning, heading for Athens where it will collect the famous flame, Tan Zhihong, senior vice-president of Air China, which provided the plane, said on Friday.

    The Airbus A330 passenger airliner, which has 200-plus seats, including 30 for VIPs, has been chartered to carry the torch on its global tour.

    "The aircraft has a specially designed stand to hold the flame while it is in transit," Tan said.

    "We guarantee it will continue to burn throughout the 11-and-a-half-hour flight from Athens.

    "It will arrive in Beijing on Monday, after its six-day relay through Greece," he said.

    A grand ceremony will be held to welcome the flame and officially launch the torch relay of the 2008 Olympic Games.

China's central government leaders will attend the ceremony.

    "To ensure the success of this special mission, we handpicked our best crew, and also organized extra training," Tan said.

    "We even held a practice flight to make sure everyone knew what to do to."

    In the event of any problems, caused by the weather or mechanical failure, during the course of the 130-day global relay, the team has a quick-response system, he said.

    "Widely recognized as a symbol of peace and harmony, the journey is supported by all the countries and regions we will fly over," Tan said.

    The plane has a red-and-yellow livery and includes the relay logo and the phrases: "Light the Passion, Share the Dream," and "Journey of Harmony", he said.

    "It's all based on the designs agreed by BOCOG."

    Other planes will help carry the torch on its 97-day mainland journey, he said.

    (Source: China Daily)

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