To visit Sikkim by air means landing at West Bengal’s Bagdogra airport, then travelling 124 km uphill on winding roads to reach Gangtok, its capital. However, from September 24, Sikkim will finally get its own airport — perched between the Himalayan ranges at a height of 4,500 ft! The Pakyong airport will be the country’s 100th functional airport — and on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate it.
The greenfield airport — the Northeast’s first — which has been conceived at a budget of Rs 605.59 crore is skilfully engineered to include soil reinforcement and slope stabilisation techniques in context of the altitude it has been built in.
“Greenfield airports have their own beauty and merits. You will experience them when flights start operating. Moreover, the airport will have multi-dimensional benefits for Sikkim which will gradually come to the fore with time,” said Ugen T Gyatso Bhutia, Minister of Civil Aviation and Tourism department, Government of Sikkim. The airport — located in the small town of Pakyong in East Sikkim — is about 30 km from Gangtok.
Earlier this year, on March 5, the Indian Air Force’s Dornier 228 was tested from Pakyong. Later, SpiceJet followed by conducting test runs of the 78-seater Bombardier Q400 from Kolkata to Pakyong on March 10. This led to security clearances for commercial operations.
From October 8, SpiceJet will operate daily flights to and from Kolkata and Guwahati under the Union Civil Aviation Ministry’s UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) scheme that aims to enhance regional connectivity. Fare prices are pegged at Rs 2,600.
“Also, gradually, the airport will connect Sikkim with other countries in the region like Bhutan, Kathmandu and Bangkok where people from the state usually go on vacations,” said Bhutia.