ILAM, Dec 29: The under-construction Falgunanda Sukilumba Airport will be operational from next April. As the work of blacktopping the runway is expected to complete within three months, take off and landing of small aircrafts from the airport will be possible from April, according to concerned government officials.
At present, the base of the runway is being prepared. Soil cutting and filling work has been done at the airport. According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), the work of the runway sub-base has also been completed already. Work on the base layer that will be laid on it is in the final stages. CAAN Engineer Binayak Bhattarai said that the upper part will be blacktopped in a few days.
“Asphalt and other necessary materials are being collected for the black topping,” he said. “Equipment required for the process have been installed in the working site, of the 900 estimated drums of asphalt necessary for the project, 300 drums have already arrived.”
Engineer Bhattarai said that a temporary building has already been constructed until the permanent terminal building is constructed. “The current contract does not include a large terminal building, but a small one,” he told Republica, adding, “A bigger terminal building needs to be built after the airport starts operating in full fledged manner.”
Engineer Bhattarai said that works including runway blacktop, small terminal, retaining wall, side drain and car parking are being done from the last contract worth Rs 90 million. About 75 percent of the work of this contract has been completed. According to CAAN, about Rs 280 million has been spent for the construction of the airport so far.
The 670-meter-long and 20-meter-wide runway of the airport will be blacktopped. Ashish, Ashirwad and Swaminarayan JV have taken charge of the current work to complete the work in 15 months. A test flight was conducted at the airport on June 4, 2018. Tara Air's 19-seater twin otter aircraft landed at Sukilumba from Kathmandu after a 1 hour and 2 minutes flight. Engineer Bhattarai said that it is the widest and best of the small area airports 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.
Although the process for the under construction airport started in 2001 the foundation stone was laid on March 27, 2011. The construction is being delayed as a small budget was allocated each year for its construction. The 328 ropani of land was purchased by raising money from the then District Development Committee, Ilam Municipality and all the municipalities and rural municipalities in the district. Donations ranging from Rs 1,000 to Rs 20,000 per person were also collected from the residents in the district. A total of Rs 22.6 million was spent for land compensation to 31 affected households.