SOLUKHUMBU, Sept 15: Syangboche Airport in Solukhumbu district, the highest-altitude airport of Nepal, has remained non-operational since the past one decade. Except for helicopters that started operating here recently to transport goods, no flights have operated here in the past 10 years.
The airport located in Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality was built 60 years ago. Since it has been non-operational for so long, it is gradually turning into a forest.
The short runway of the airport allows flights of only small single-engine aircraft. But Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has restricted flights of such single-engine aircraft.
“If this airport was expanded and brought into operation, the pressure of Lukla’s Tenzing-Hillary Airport could be reduced to some extent,” said Lama Kaji Sherpa, a local.
Syangboche airport is at the height of 3,700 m above the sea level. Though the locals have been demanding to resume flights at the airport, airlines companies are not able to do that.
According to Bachhu Ram Shrestha, chief of Lukla office of CAAN, the airport could be operated by expanding its runway, but it was not possible as the land for expansion belonged to Sagarmatha National park.
If the airport came into operation, tourists could visit Khumbu region at least during fair weather, said Pasang Chhiring Sherpa, a local. “If we could bring this airport into operation, it might be a good contribution to the development of tourism in Khumbu region,” Sherpa said.
Solukhumbu is the district with the highest number of airports in the country. Among the four airports here, only two are in operation. Apart from Syangboche, Kangel Airport is also non-operational since the last four years. Only Phaplu and Tenzing-Hillary airports are operational in the district.