ISTANBUL: Turkish authorities have sunk an A300 Airbus jet off a resort on the Aegean Sea with the aim of boosting diving tourism in the region, reports said Sunday.
The giant plane was put to the bottom of the sea Saturday afternoon off the popular resort of Kusadasi in Aydin province, the Dogan and Cihan news agencies reported.
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The sinking of the giant plane -- with a wingspan of 44 metres (144 feet) and a length of 54 metres (177 feet) -- is aimed at promoting artificial reef diving which is hugely popular with experienced divers.
Once sunken, the plane acts like a reef, becoming a magnet for underwater flora and fauna.
The 36-year-old aircraft had been bought by Aydin municipality from a private aviation firm for 270,000 Turkish lira ($93,000).
Turkey is looking for new ways to promote its key tourism industry, which is expected to suffer a battering this year due to the security situation after a string of deadly attacks.
Hundreds of people watched the two-and-a-half hour sinking on nearby boats, cheering and blasting their foghorns as the nose of the plane finally went down, video images showed.
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"Our goal is to make Kusadasi a centre of diving tourism," said Aydin's mayor Ozlem Cercioglu.
"Our goal is to protect the underwater life. And with these goals in mind, we have witnessed one of the biggest wrecks in the world."
She added: "Our main target to diversify tourism in Kusadasi and have a 12 month season."
Three small planes have been sunk off Turkish resorts of recent years in the hope of promoting dive tourism but this is the first time Turkey has sent such a large aircraft to the bottom of the sea.
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