Sikkim is now just one direct flight away. No more will you have to taxi 154 kms uphill from Bagdogra airport in West Bengal to reach this enchanting destination. By Deepali Sharma
Sikkim today witnessed the much needed inauguration of its first functional airport at Pakyong by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is also the 100th airport in India.
The airport covers an area of 201 acres and is located on top of a hill about 2 kms above the village of Pakyong, at the height of 4,500 feet above sea level. The greenfield airport, 30 km from the state’s capital, Gangtok, is a dream come true after nine years of laying the foundation stone.
The brand new airport will be commercially functional from the first week of October according to the State Chief Secretary A.K. Shrivastava. The airport is located at a distance of 60 kms from the Indo-China border with a reinforcement wall at a height of 80 metres, one of the tallest in the world.
The first flights to arrive in Gangtok will be Spicejet’s Bombardier Q-400 with passengers from Guwahati and Kolkata.
Under the regional connectivity scheme of UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) by Union Government, the private carrier will be ferrying daily direct flights between Pakyong and Kolkata from October 4 and between Pakyong and Guwhati from October 16. Pakyong is Spicejet’s ninth destination under the scheme.
An estimated cost of INR 605 crores has been utilised for the construction of the airport. The high altitude airport has integrated structures comprising an ATC tower-cum-fire station, two sophisticated CFT, one terminal building for passengers, high-intensity runway lights, and parking for over 50 vehicles.
The airport’s 1.75-kilometre runway has a width of 30 metres. There’s a 116-metre-long taxiway connecting it to an apron measuring 106 metres by 76 metres that can simultaneously accommodate two ATR-72 aircraft. Another 75-metre stretch adjacent to the main runway is being constructed for the use of Indian Air Force. The 3,000-square-metre terminal building is large enough to handle 50 in-bound and as many out-bound passengers.