With the inauguration of the Pakyong airport in Sikkim on Monday, not only has it put the mountainous Himalayan state on the aviation map, but every Indian state now has its own domestic airport facility and is also the 100th operational airport in India.

Situated about 30 kilometres from Gangtok, the picturesque Pakyong airport is spread in 201 acres of land, 4,500 ft above sea level and has a 1,700-metre long table-top runway amid towering mountains. This is Sikkim’s first ever airport, India’s 100th operational airport and has put all Indian states on the aviation map after 67 years of independence. The Pakyong airport is constructed at a cost of Rs 605 crore by shaving off a mountain top to build the runway and is seen as an “engineering marvel” which will improve connectivity, benefitting the people of Sikkim.

Being an engineering marvel in one of the tallest and uneven locations, it took almost a decade for the construction of airport to complete as the foundation stone of the green field airport was laid way back in 2009. The airport was inaugurated by PM Modi on Monday and is located just 60 km from the Indo-China border and is about 124 kilometres away from its nearest airport located at Bagodara in West Bengal. The airport will serve a lot of travellers who had to take a 10-and-ahalf hour train journey to New Jalpaiguri or an hour flight to Bagodara and drive down for four hours, all the way to Gangtok.

The table-top runways certified for operations of small fixed wing aircraft like ATR, CRJ and Bombardier will facilitate its first flight on October 4. The passengers will now be able to reach Pakyong easily with one or two flights taking off daily, connecting to other states. Also, the airport is facilitated with integrated structures like the ATC tower-cum-fire station, two sophisticated CFT, one terminal building for passengers, high-intensity runway lights, parking lots for 50 vehicles and much more.

Sikkim's Pakyong Airport. Photo: Rajiv Srivastava