|Owner||Government of India|
|Operator||Airports Authority of India|
|Location||Pakyong, Sikkim, India|
|Opened||September 24, 2018|
|Time zone||Indian Standard Time (+5:30)|
|Elevation AMSL||1,399 m / 4,590 ft|
|Statistics (April 2018 - May 2019)|
The airport, spread over 201 acres (81 ha), is located at Pakyong town about 31km (22 mi) south of Gangtok. At 4590 ft, Pakyong Airport is one of the five highest airports in India. It is also the first greenfield airport constructed in the Northeastern Region of India, the 100th operational airport in India, and the only airport in the state of Sikkim. The airport was inaugurated on 24th September 2018 by India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi while the first commercial flight operations started in 4th October 2018.
Upon its opening, major media across the globe described it as "a breathtaking piece of engineering on the roof of the world" offering arriving passengers "one of the most dramatic airport approaches on the planet." Despite this, the airport's commercial flight operations since its opening have been hampered by poor weather conditions, being a Visual flight rule (VFR) Airport as originally planned as per MOU 2002 & MOU 2015 among Civil Aviation GOI, Tourism Deptt Govt of Sikkim and AAI. Due to visibility issues & non cooperation from the local villagers including inaction by local Administration, the airport's only commercial passenger airline Spicejet stopped flight operations to the airport with effect from 1st June 2019, with a resumption of flight operations planned with effect from 28th October 2019. Also due to Hill obstruction, no Instrument could be installed at Pakyong Airport. So some visibility land markers beyond 5 km are being done to help Metrological officers regarding declaring actual visibility reporting so that the number of flight operations can be increased during dry season.
Prior to the construction of Pakyong Airport, Sikkim had been the sole state in India possessing no functional airport. Previously, the nearest airports used to access Sikkim were Bagdogra, located 124 km (77 mi) (and a five hour drive) away in the neighboring state of West Bengal, and Paro Airport in Bhutan.
The project to develop Pakyong Airport was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in October 2008. The Punj Lloyd Group was awarded the ₹2,640 million (equivalent to ₹2.8 billion or US$40 million in 2018) contract to construct a runway, taxiway, apron drainage system, and electrical work for the greenfield airport in January 2009. The foundation stone for the greenfield airport was laid by the then Civil Aviation Minister, Praful Patel, in February 2009.
The project was initially slated to be completed by 2012, but protests by local villagers, demanding proper rehabilitation and compensation, had resulted in suspension of work in January 2014. The AAI intervened and held discussions with agitating villagers and paid part compensation allowing work to resume in October 2014. However, in January 2015, work came to a halt once again as villagers took to protests. In July 2015, AAI and the State Government signed an MoU with AAI, promising to shift the affected households by August 15 so that AAI could resume work from October 2015. These protest-related delays and landslides upslope of the runway resulted in suspension of work twice, escalating costs from ₹3,090 million (equivalent to ₹3.2 billion or US$47 million in 2018) to ₹6,050 million (equivalent to ₹6.3 billion or US$92 million in 2018). Maximally ecological slope-stabilization techniques were used to remedy the landslide situation.
On 5 March 2018, an IAF Dornier 228 landed on the completed airstrip, becoming the first aircraft to land at Pakyong.SpiceJet had been awarded the Pakyong to Kolkata and Guwahati sectors under the second round of bidding for the Government's UDAN Regional Connectivity Scheme in January 2018 and it conducted a trial landing of its Q400 aircraft at Pakyong on 10 March 2018.
The airport received its commercial operating license from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on 5 May 2018. The airport was inaugurated by India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 24 September 2018 and the first commercial flight operations from the airport began on 4 October 2018 between Pakyong and Kolkata.
The airport was built by the AAI at an estimated cost of 605 crore featuring a 1,700 m × 30 m (5,577 ft × 98 ft) runway and a 116 m (381 ft) long taxiway connecting it to an apron measuring 106 by 76 metres (348 ft × 249 ft) that can accommodate two ATR 72 aircraft at a time.
A terminal building measuring 2,380 m2 (25,600 sq ft) with a capacity of 100 passengers, a car park for 80 vehicles and a fire station cum Air Traffic Control Tower was constructed by Ms PABSCON. Navigation facilities include NDB, DVOR, High Intensity Runway Lights (HIRL), airport beacon, and a PAPI.
The Pakyong Airport project is one of the tallest reinforced soil structures in the world. The land for the airport was carved from the mountainside using massive geotechnical 'cut and fill' engineering works. These state-of-the-art geogrid soil reinforcement and slope stabilisation techniques were employed as traditional retaining structures and embankments were ruled out as being unfeasible. Italian geotechnical company Maccaferri executed the project that envisaged a 550 m (1,800 ft) wide, 1.7 km (1.1 mi) long corridor on which the runway and airport buildings were to be constructed. The company, which completed the project with partners Mott MacDonald and Punj Lloyd, won the 'International Project of the Year' award at the Ground Engineering Awards 2012 for its work in constructing 70 m (230 ft) high reinforced soil walls and slopes at the site. 
Commercial flight operationsEdit
As of June 1, 2019, SpiceJet, the airport's sole airline providing commercial passenger service, ceased its once daily Kolkata-Pakyong-Kolkata flight due to "unpredictable weather in Pakyong which results in very low visibility", having earlier suspended the other daily service between Pakyong and Guwahati. Airline officials also cited the approaching monsoon season's aggravating effect on flight operations when announcing the service suspension. SpiceJet initially did not give a date for resumption of its schedule although there are plans for the Pakyong-Kolkata service to resume in October 27th, 2019. .
In December 2018, 21 of SpiceJet's 31 daily flights (nearly 70% of its schedule) were forced to divert to Bagdogra (up to a five-hour drive away) because Pakyong "lacked the requisite navigation equipment for low-visibility situations", being a Visual flight rule (VFR) Airport as originally planned as per MOU 2002 & MOU 2015 among Civil Aviation GOI, Tourism Deptt Govt of Sikkim and AAI. Currently, Pakyong requires at least 5km (5,000m). The Airports Authority of India (AAI) would like bring this down to at least 2.5km (2,500m), but says area residents were against it. An official in the Sikkim government cited issues that took place during the rainy season when landslides damaged large tracts of agricultural land affecting over 37 land owners of a nearby village. A local commission has been formed, headed by a judge, to review the situation.
In addition to fluctuating weather and adequate basic strip area (western side) issues have also hampered commercial flight operations. The basic strip, which is mandated to be a minimum of 75 m wide, is only 40 m in western side & 80m wide Eastern side along 2 km long. Contractors have been "unable to take up Civil works to extend the stretch of basic strip and erect a strong RCC Retaining wall with anchoring system" because the State Government of Sikkim has not yet compensated few of the affected landowners. Also due to Hill obstruction, no Instrument could be installed at Pakyong Airport. So some visibility land markers beyond 5 km are being done to help Metrological officers regarding declaring actual visibility reporting so that the number of flight operations can be increased during dry season. Recently Govt of Sikkim agreed to compensate few actual land owners & it is expected to restart the most essential Civil works.
Military flight operationsEdit
As Pakyong Airport sits approximately 60 km (37.28 mi) from the India-China border, it is considered strategically important. In March 2018, the Indian Air Force (IAF) was the first to land an aircraft, a Dornier 228, at the airport. And in January 2019, an IAF Antanov-32 transport plane arrived "in an effort to boost the transportation of troops and material to this region." Because of this ability to land certain military aircraft at the site, the ministries of home affairs and civil aviation had disputed which should be in charge of securing the airport. The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) favored the use of local police. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) backed the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which handles airport security at 59 other airports across the country.
Border disputes have gripped this Himalayan region for decades. The 2017 China–India border standoff took place over the Doklam pass on the tri-junction between China, India and Bhutan, situated roughly 54 km (33.55 mi) west of Pakyong Airport.
Airlines and destinationsEdit
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