|Owner||Government of India|
|Operator||Airports Authority of India|
|Location||Pakyong, Pakyong District, Sikkim, India|
|Opened||24 September 2018|
|Time zone||Indian Standard Time (+5:30)|
|Elevation AMSL||1,416 m / 4,646 ft|
|Statistics (April 2021 - March 2022)|
Spread over 201 acres (81 ha), the airport is located at Pakyong about 31 km (22 mi) south of Gangtok. At 4,646 ft, Pakyong Airport is one of the five highest airports in India. It is also the first greenfield airport constructed in the Northeast India, the 100th operational airport in India, and the only airport in the state of Sikkim.
Inaugurated on 24 September 2018 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, commercial flight operations started 4 October 2018. Upon its opening, major media across the globe praised its engineering and described it as one of the most scenic airports in the world. However, commercial flight operations have been hampered by low visibility due to poor weather conditions, being originally planned and designed as a Visual Flight Rules (VFR) Airport. Due to these visibility issues along with agitation from the local villagers, strip area issues and inaction by local administration, the airport's only commercial passenger airline SpiceJet temporarily suspended flight operations to the airport effective 1 June 2019. After a suspension of 19 months, flight operations by SpiceJet resumed on 23 January 2021, following the establishment of Required Navigation Performance (RNP) approaches.
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 ₹3.1 billion or US$39 million in 2020) 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 15 August 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 ₹3.7 billion or US$46 million in 2020) to ₹6,050 million (equivalent to ₹7.2 billion or US$90 million in 2020). 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 after getting approval from DGCA for M/s SpiceJet 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.
On 5 December 2019, 35 families affected by the airport's construction signed off on a joint agreement and accepted the first installment in compensation for their loss of land bringing years of protest to a close.
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 DVOR, High Intensity Runway Lights (HIRL), Aerodrome 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 given consultancy services to execute the project that envisaged a 150 m (490 ft) wide, 2 km (1.2 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 74 m (243 ft) high reinforced soil walls and slopes at the site.
Commercial flight operations
Although initially praised by worldwide media upon its opening as being "a breathtaking piece of engineering on the roof of the world" offering arriving passengers "one of the most dramatic airport approaches on the planet", the airport's commercial flight operations have since been disrupted by poor weather conditions affecting flight visibility. 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 5 km (5,000m)under Visual flight rule (VFR) conditions for Non-Schedule Airlines. For schedule flight operations by SpiceJet Required navigation performance (RNP) procedure was approved by DGCA with visibility requirement of 2,400m.
On 1 June 2019, SpiceJet, the airport's sole airline providing commercial passenger service, temporarily suspended 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 earlier conveyed that they will restart flight operation with effect from winter schedule i.e., 27 October 2019, however, the flight operations remained suspended for the rest of the year and 2020.
In addition to fluctuating weather, 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 at the time had not compensated few of the affected landowners. On 5 December 2019, it was reported that 35 families affected by the airport's construction had been offered a compensation of 20.6 crore by the State Government and that there would be support in ensuring the full completion and operation of the airport. On 18 November 2020, a trial landing was conducted at the airport by SpiceJet involving a Required navigation performance (RNP) procedure and commercial flight operations resumed on 23 January 2021 after a suspension of 19 months. Upon its resumption, the first ever Delhi-Pakyong direct flight started from 23 January 2021 while flights to Kolkata resumed on 1 February 2021.
Airline and destinations
Pakyong Airport has snack bar, Prepaid Taxi counter for passengers within its premises. Prepaid taxis can be availed on a very reasonable rate to visit nearby cities like Gangtok, Namchi, Mangan, Pelling etc. or any other tourist places of Sikkim on hiring basis. The airport is just 1 kilometre away from NH717A at Pakyong.
Military flight operations
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 Antonov-32 transport plane arrived "in an effort to boost the transportation of troops and material to this region." At present security is being provided by State government of Sikkim as per MoU dated 30.6.2015 signed among Government of Sikkim, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India and Airports Authority of India.
- Military bases
- List of ALGs
- List of Indian Air Force stations
- India-China military deployment on LAC
- List of disputed India-China areas
- Other related topics
- India-China Border Roads
- List of extreme points of India
- Defence Institute of High Altitude Research
- "Annexure III - Passenger Data" (PDF). www.aai.aero. Retrieved 10 July 2022.
- "Annexure II - Aircraft Movement Data" (PDF). www.aai.aero. Retrieved 10 July 2022.
- "Annexure IV - Freight Movement Data" (PDF). www.aai.aero. Retrieved 10 July 2022.
- "Sikkim to have 100th functional airport in India". 2 May 2018.
- "Wait for Sikkim air link".
- "Sikkim's Greenfield Airport". Punjlloyd. Retrieved 4 August 2012.
- "Sikkim's Pakyong airport stuns before it flies". 24 September 2018.
- "Sikkim to get its first airport at Pakyong". The Indian Express. 17 November 2007. Retrieved 4 August 2012.
- "Pakyong airport in Sikkim to become the 100th functional airport in India: Jayant Sinha". The Financial Express. Press Trust of India. 3 May 2018. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
- "PM Narendra Modi inaugurates Sikkim's Pakyong airport". The Economic Times. 24 September 2018. Retrieved 24 September 2018.
- "Sikkim's Pakyong Airport welcomes first commercial flight in state with water cannon salute". First Post. 4 October 2018. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
- Hiufu Wong, Maggie (25 September 2018). "India's new Pakyong Airport opens in incredible Himalayan surroundings". CNN. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
- "Trial touchdown successful at Sikkim airport". The Times of India. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
- "Airline operations at Sikkim's Pakyong airport resume after 19 months". All India Radio. Retrieved 23 January 2021.
- Dey, Panchali. "Pakyong Airport to finally become operational this month". The Times of India. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
- Sen, Sutapa (19 August 2018). "Good news: Sikkim's first airport ready to start operations, 5 facts you need to know". DNA. iligent Media Corporation Ltd. Retrieved 21 August 2018.
- "Pakyong, first-ever airport in Sikkim, makes steady progress". ProjectsMonitor. 6 December 2010. Archived from the original on 19 July 2012. Retrieved 4 August 2012.
- Dey, Supratim (30 January 2015). "Work on N-E's first greenfield airport comes to a halt". Business Standard India. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
- "North East's first greenfield airport comes to a halt". Business Standard. 30 January 2015. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
- "AAI, Sikkim govt sign MoU for Pakyong Airport". Business Standard. 3 July 2015. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
- "The Pakyong Airport landslide issue in India". 29 January 2015.
- IAF's Dornier aircraft lands at Pakyong airport Economic Times 5 March 2018
- "SpiceJet awarded 17 proposals and 20 new sectors under the second round of bidding for UDAN". SpiceJet Press Release. 24 January 2018. Retrieved 24 September 2018.
- Spicejet Bombardier Q400 78 seater aircraft makes historic landing at Pakyong Airport Voice of Sikkim 10 March 2018
- "Sikkim's Pakyong Airport gets license". Millennium Post. 5 May 2018. Retrieved 24 September 2018.
- "35 Airport affected families compensated, thanks CM for speedy solution". The Voice of Sikkim. IPR. 5 December 2019. Retrieved 14 December 2019.
- "Sikkim airport project wins UK award". The Economic Times. 15 May 2012. Retrieved 4 August 2012.
- "No flights to Sikkim from June 1". The Times of India. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
- "SpiceJet's Flights Schedule & Information for Domestic & International Flight".
- Sinha, Saurabh (25 May 2019). "No flights to Sikkim's first airport Pakyong from June 1 'till further notice', says SpiceJet". The Times of India. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
- Adhikary, Prakash (21 May 2019). "Operations at Sikkim's First Airport, Inaugurated Last Year, Likely to Be Indefinitely Halted". News 18. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
- "35 Airport affected families compensated, thanks CM for speedy solution". The Voice of Sikkim. The Voice of Sikkim. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
- "Flight operations resume at Sikkim's Pakyong Airport after 18 months". 24 January 2021.
- "Spice Jet flight resumes". United News of India. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
- "SpiceJet flight schedules". SpiceJet. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
- "IAF lands An-32 aircraft at Pakyong Airport in Sikkim". ANI News. 17 January 2019. Retrieved 3 June 2019.