|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 (January 2018 - November 2018)|
Pakyong Airport is a greenfield airport near Gangtok, the state capital of Sikkim, India. The airport, spread over 400 ha (990 acres), is located at Pakyong town about 35km (22 mi) south of Gangtok. At 4500 ft, Pakyong Airport is one of the five highest airports in India. It is also the first greenfield airport to be 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 by India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 24th September 2018 and the first commercial flight operations from the airport began on 4 October 2018 between Pakyong and Kolkata.
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$39 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$45 million in 2018) to ₹6,050 million (equivalent to ₹6.3 billion or US$88 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 on 5 March 2018, 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 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. 
Military flight operations
As Pakyong Airport sits approximately 60 km (37.28 mi) from the India-China border, it is considered strategically important. It has been reported that the Indian Air Force (IAF) would have the ability to land certain military aircraft at the site, if necessary. As a result, the ministries of home affairs and civil aviation are disputing which should be in charge of securing the airport. The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) favors the use of local police. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) backs 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 destinations
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- "Pakyong airport in Sikkim to become the 100th functional airport in India: Jayant Sinha". Financial Express. PTI. 3 May 2018. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
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- "Sikkim's Pakyong Airport welcomes first commercial flight in state with water cannon salute". First Post. First Post. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
- Dey, Panchali. "Pakyong Airport to finally become operational this month". HappyTrips. Times of India. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
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- "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
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- "Civil aviation sec. inspects airport construction in Sikkim". iSikkim. 9 June 2011. Retrieved 4 August 2012.
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- Chauhan, Neerah. "2 mantris spar over Sikkim airport security". The Times of India (25 July 2018). Retrieved 21 August 2018.
- Garver, John (16 July 2017). "This standoff is China telling India to accept changing realities". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 22 November 2017.