The stage is set for commercial flight operations from Pakyong airport, the first airport in the state of Sikkim in the Northeast. Representatives of low-cost carrier SpiceJet presented a memento of the first flight ticket and boarding pass to Chief Minister Pawan Chamlingin state capital Gangtok on Friday.
The first commercial flight from Pakyong airport, scheduled for 8 October, will fly on the Kolkata-Pakyong and Pakyong-Kolkata route.
The 100thairport to become operational in the country is located about 35 km from Gangtok. Sikkim, incidentally, was the only state in India not have an airport yet; it is yet to get rail connectivity.
The nearest airport till now was the Bagdogra airport, about 130 km away in the northern part of West Bengal. This was a four-and-a-half-hour drive from the state capital.
According to the SpiceJet website, the flight will leave Kolkata at 9.30 am; it will land in Pakyong at 10.55 am. On its return trip, it will depart for Kolkata at 11.15 am, reaching its destination at 12.45 pm. A one-way ticket has been priced at Rs 2,680.
The flight is expected to be extended to Guwahati in Assam later in October. International flights could also become a reality soon, particularly to countries like Bhutan.
Air connectivity is expected to give a big boost to tourism in the state, popular for its scenic locations.
Feat Of Engineering
Approved by the Centre nearly a decade ago, the Rs 350-crore Pakyong Airport is located at a height of 4,500 ft, making it among the highest in the country.
It has been constructed in extremely rough terrain, and is an extraordinary example of engineering, particularly since the region is prone to landslides.
It is located about 60 km from the Indo-China border, making it a strategically important airport for the Indian Air Force.
On 6 March, a 19-seater Dornier 228 plane of the IAF became the first fixed-wing aircraft to land at the airport.
A few days later, a SpiceJet Q400 Bombardier became the first fixed-wing civil flight to land in Sikkim. The turboprop plane that can carry 70 passengers arrived from Kolkata.
With several trials being completed successfully, the airport received a government licence for scheduled operations in May this year. Commercial flight operations have been taken up under the Central government’s regional connectivity scheme known as UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik).