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PM to inaugurate Sikkim’s first airport today

 GANGTOK, Sept 23 - Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said he would inaugurate the first airport in Sikkim at Paykong on Monday and that it will improve connectivity, benefitting the people of the State.

The Prime Minister on Sunday evening arrived here on a two-day visit to Sikkim during which he would inaugurate the State’s lone airport.

He reached here in an MI-8 chopper from Bagdogra and was received by Governor Ganga Prasad, Chief Minister Pawan Chamling and others at Libing Army Helipad. He was given a gun salute by the Army there.

From the Army helipad, the PM’s entourage travelled around 5 km to the Raj Bhawan where he will stay for the night.

A large number of people carrying colourful flags gathered at both sides of the road amidst rain to get a glimpse of the Prime Minister who also waived back from his vehicle. Later at Raj Bhawan, the PM met BJP leaders and representatives of various social organisations.

Sikkim’s dream of having an airport will come true nine years after a foundation stone of the greenfield airport was laid, around 33 km from Gangtok, in 2009.

The airport is spread over 201 acres and is located on top of a hill about two km above Pakyong village at 4,500 feet above sea level, Sikkim Chief Secretary AK Srivastava said.

The airport was constructed by Airports Authority of India and at present, the nearest airport from Sikkim is located 124 km away in Bagdogra in West Bengal, he also said.

The airport was constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 605 crore and is an “engineering marvel” for its soil reinforcement and slope stabilisation techniques keeping in view the altitude it was built at, Srivastava said.

Integrated structures comprising an ATC tower-cum-fire station, two sophisticated CFT, one terminal building for passengers, high-intensity runway lights, parking for over 50 vehicles are some of the features of the airport, he informed.

The reinforcement wall of the project is 80-metre-high, one of the tallest in the world, Srivastava said.

The Pakyong airport is located around 60 km from the Indo-China border.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) would be able to land various types of aircraft on the airport’s runway with the construction of another 75-metre stretch adjacent to the main runway in the coming days.

The airport has a 1.75 km runway with a width of 30 metre. It has a 116-metre-long taxiway connecting it to an apron measuring 106 metre by 76 metre that can simultaneously accommodate two ATR-72 aircrafts.

The airport has 3,000 sq metre terminal building and has a capacity to handle 50 in-bound and as many out-bound passengers.

Pakyong Airport Director R Manjunatha said the land for the airport was carved from the mountain side using massive geo technical ‘cut and fill’ engineering works.

The first commercial flight from Pakyong would begin from October 4, he said.

SpiceJet will operate 78-seater Bombardier Q400 flights to and fro Delhi, Kolkata and Guwahati everyday under the Civil Aviation Ministry’s Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) scheme, Manjunatha said.

UDAN aims at enhancing regional connectivity. Manjunatha said initially the airport would only cater to domestic flights, but later it will also provide international flight services connecting Sikkim with other countries like Paro in Bhutan, Kathmandu in Nepal and Dhaka in Bangladesh.

The Sikkim Police has been entrusted with the security of the Pakyong airport, the officials said. – PTI

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