Saturday, March 10, 2018

Flight boost for Sikkim airport

Calcutta: A private flight landed at the Pakyong airport in Sikkim for the first time on Saturday morning, prompting civil aviation officials to express the hope that the airport might be operational in a month.

The SpiceJet test flight from Calcutta landed at the Pakyong airport - 4,600ft above the sea level and around 30km from Sikkim's capital Gangtok - around 11.45am.

"It was a smooth and successful landing. We are expecting the commercial operations to start soon," said Pakyong airport director R. Manjunatha. The Bombardier Q400, a turboprop aircraft with 78 passenger seats, took around one-and-a-half-hours to reach Pakyong from Calcutta.

A team was standing by at the Bagdogra airport, off Siliguri, in case an emergency cropped up and the flight failed to land at Pakyong.

An air force aircraft recently made a test landing at the airport.

The directorate-general of civil aviation, the regulatory authority for civil aviation in India, inspected the airport on Saturday.

Based on the report, the authorities will decide whether the Pakyong airport will be issued a license.

"The airport has complied with a set of recommendations of the directorate-general of civil aviation. We hope the licence will be issued this month," an official of the Airports Authority of India said.

SpiceJet has been granted the permission to fly to Pakyong from Calcutta and Guwahati under the civil aviation ministry's regional connectivity scheme UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik), which aims to revive airports equipped to handle commercial flights but are still not operational.

SpiceJet sources said it would operate aircraft similar to Bombardier Q400 to and from Pakyong.

The airline has prepared a tentative schedule for the Calcutta-Pakyong-Guwahati route (see chart).

"The timings are such that tourists from Calcutta can reach Gangtok by noon. And those who are returning to the city from Sikkim will not have to start early. We are expecting good traffic except for the monsoon months," a SpiceJet official said.

Tourists headed for Gangtok by air now have to fly to Bagdogra and travel more than four hours by road - 123km - to reach Gangtok.

Air connectivity will also spare tourists and Sikkim the uncertainty over travel resulting from the political unrest in Darjeeling.

The Pakyong airport's terminal building is spread across 3,200sq m and has five check-in counters and two X-ray machines for scanning registered luggage.

"We have provisions for increasing the number of counters. The terminal can handle more than 50 arriving and a similar number of departing passengers at a time," airport director Manjunatha said.

Original article ➤

Officials and the cabin crew of the SpiceJet plane at Pakyong airport in Sikkim on Saturday. 

Siliguri: The first private airline, a 78-seater Bombardier Q 400 of Spicejet, landed at the Pakyong airport in Sikkim on Saturday, much to the delight of the Himalayan state's residents and tourists.

The airport is managed by Airport Authority of India (AAI) and is one of the highest in the country located at a height of 4,590 feet. It is 35km from state capital Gangtok.

"It is an important day for us. The Spicejet flight landed here for the first time. It took off from Calcutta with high-level teams from the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and AAI, along with some officials of the airline company. There were around 15 people on board," said R.Manjunatha, airport director, Pakyong.

Earlier this month, a Dornier 228 aircraft of the Indian Air Force had landed at Pakyong for a trial run.

"The infrastructure is ready from our side. We hope Sikkim will soon find an official place in the national air map," added the airport director.

Those from AAI and DGCA interacted with officials posted at the airport and also with senior officials of the state, who had gathered at the airport on Saturday.

On Wednesday, Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling had said at the Assembly that the airport will be operational soon. It will largely help in improving connectivity between Sikkim and the rest of the country.

As of now, road transport is the principal mode of communication in the state, with a helicopter service from Bagdogra.

At Pakyong, there is a runway that is 1,700 metres long. It also has an apron to accommodate two ATR aircraft.

Also, a terminal building with necessary infrastructure to handle around 100 passengers, a parking lot of 80-odd vehicles and an air traffic control-cum-fire station have been built at the site.

Spicejet, that has been permitted to run flights to Pakyong, has already announced flights in Calcutta-Pakyong-Guwahati and Delhi-Pakyong routes.

Senior officials, who arrived at the airport by the flight, inspected the facilities and infrastructure.

"Their visit might be considered as a final check of airport before commencement of services. The final assent is expected soon," said a source in AAI.

Raj Basu, the tourism advisor to the Government of Sikkim, welcomed the development.

"The airport is going to be a turning point for Sikkim. Most tourists who visit the state are from Calcutta and adjoining areas and very soon, there will be direct air connectivity to Gangtok. Also, the state will have connectivity with Guwahati, the entry point to north-eastern states. It is a day for celebrations in the state," said Basu.

Original article can be found here ➤

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