ILAM, April 15: The Falgunanda Sukilumba Airport in the district headquarter of Ilam is ready for take-offs and landings.
All the major works of airport construction have been completed. The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has stated that the airport is now ready for operation.
Binayak Bhattarai, engineer at the CAAN, said the work including runway blacktop, marking and printing has been completed. “Now it is possible to operate flights to and from the airport,” he said. “Trivial works like construction of drainage are left and they are also being carried out.”
Engineer Bhattarai said that CAAN is preparing to start operation of flights by mid-May. “CAAN is preparing to let aircrafts take-off and land at the airport within the stipulated time,” he said, “The airport is ready for take-offs and landings but we are planning to complete every little work and officially carry out test flights.” The 670-meter-long and 20-meter-wide runway of the airport has already been blacktopped.
The Ilam Municipality acquired the land for the airport constructed in Ward 9 of the city. The municipality has already written to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation to bring the airport into operation as it is almost ready for flight. Mayor Mahesh Basnet said that the ministry has informed that the flights will operate soon.
The process of blacktopping the runway started 15 months ago. A temporary terminal building has also been constructed near the airport. “Once the airport starts operating in a full fledged manner, a big terminal building will have to be constructed,” said Engineer Bhattarai. "A contract worth Rs 90 million to blacktop the runway, build small terminal, retaining and car parking has also been signed.”
According to CAAN, about Rs 280 million has been invested into the project. A test flight was conducted at the airport on June 4, 2018. Tara Air's 19-seater twin otter aircraft landed at Sukilumba airport from Kathmandu after an one-hour-long flight. Engineer Bhattarai said it is the widest and best of the small area airports located in the hilly region of Nepal.
After the construction of the airport here, residents of Panchthar, Taplejung and Darjeeling in India will benefit from air service. This airport is considered sufficient for twin-otter aircrafts. Technicians have stated that drone aircraft can operate faster than twin-otter aircraft. They estimate that these aircraft can fly 10 minutes faster than other aircrafts in Kathmandu-Ilam route.