NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday inaugurated Sikkim's first airport located on top of a hill, about 33 km from Gangtok, at 4,500 feet above sea level.
The Pakyong airport, which is India's 100th airport, is spread over 201 acres of land.
“We are committed to making the North East an engine for India's growth story. For the first time since Independence, stress has been given on increasing connectivity by both air and rail, electricity in remote areas of the North East and building infrastructure," Modi said in his inaugural speech.
“India has hit a century,” the PM said as he dedicated the country's 100th operational airport to the people of Sikkim.
“Since Independence, the country had only 65 airports till 2014. But in the last four years, we have built 35 airports. Earlier, the average was one airport every year. The average is now nine airports per year.”
Work is progressing at high pace to strengthen both, infrastructural&emotional connectivity to Sikkim&Northeast. I've been here myself to check the development work in Northeast&Union Miniters regularly visit the region: PM Modi at inauguration of Pakyong Airport, Gangtok.#Sikkim pic.twitter.com/Wrz7UcmDVo— ANI (@ANI) September 24, 2018
Located merely 60 km from the Indo-China border, the civilian airport will not only boost development in the Northeast region but is also of strategic importance. The Indian Air Force will be able to land various types of planes, boosting military logistic in the state sharing border with Bhutan.
The first commercial flight will operate on October 4 with low cost carrier SpiceJet operating a Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 connecting Pakyong with Kolkata. A flight will leave from Kolkata at 9:30 am daily and will return from Pakyong at 11:15 am. There will also be daily flights to Delhi and Guwahati under the government's UDAN regional connectivity scheme.
Though the foundation stone was laid about eight years ago, difficult topography and hostile weather made the project extremely challenging. The Northeast region’s first greenfield airport has 3,000 sq m terminal building and has a capacity to handle 50 in-bound and as many out-bound passengers. It has a 1.75 km runway with a width of 30 metre. A 116-metre-long taxiway connects the runway to an apron measuring 106 metre by 76 metre that can simultaneously accommodate two ATR-72 aircraft.