Sikkim gets its first airport at Pakyong
Nine years after the foundation stone of Sikkim’s first. The greenfield airport is expected to improve the connectivity to the land-locked state nestled in the Himalayas and give a boost to its tourism.
Pakyong Airport is a greenfield airport near Gangtok, the state capital of Sikkim, India.The airport, spread over 400 ha (990 acres), is located at Pakyong village about 35km (22 mi) south of Gangtok. At 4500 ft, Pakyong Airport is one of the five highest airports in India. It is also the first greenfield airport to be constructed in the Northeastern Region of India, the 100th operational airport in India, and the only airport in the state of Sikkim.
The airport was inaugurated by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 24th September 2018. Although it was initially confirmed that Spicejet would operate its first commercial flight from Kolkata on 4 October 2018, this was later pushed back to 8 October 2018. Druk Air plans to launch flights between Pakyong and Paro on 1 January 2019.
The project to develop Pakyong Airport was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in October 2008. The Punj Lloyd Group was awarded the ₹2,640 million (US$37 million) contract to construct a runway, taxiway, apron drainage system, and electrical work for the greenfield airport in January 2009. The foundation stone for the greenfield airport was laid by the then Civil Aviation Minister, Praful Patel, in February 2009.
On 5 March 2018 An IAF Dornier 228 landed on the completed airstrip on 5 March 2018, becoming the first aircraft to land at Pakyong.SpiceJet had been awarded the Pakyong to Kolkata and Guwahati sectors under the second round of bidding for the Government’s UDAN Regional Connectivity Scheme in January 2018 and it conducted a trial landing of its Q400 aircraft at Pakyong on 10 March 2018.
As Pakyong Airport sits approximately 60 km (37.28 mi) from the India-China border, it is considered strategically important. It has been reported that the Indian Air Force (IAF) would have the ability to land certain military aircraft at the site, if necessary. As a result, the ministries of home affairs and civil aviation are disputing which should be in charge of securing the airport. The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) favors the use of local police. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) backs the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which handles airport security at 59 other airports across the country.