ILAM, June 5: A test flight was successfully conducted at the newly-built Phalgunanda Sukilumba Airport in Ilam district on Monday.
A 19-seater Twin Otter Aircraft of Tara Air landed at the STOL airfield at 11:57 am on Monday. According to Captain Sanjeev Shrestha, who conducted the test flight, it took 80 minutes for the aircraft to reach Phalgunanda Sukilumba Airport from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu.
The airport currently has graveled runway. However, we did not witness any difficult while landing at the airport, Shrestha said.
“Clear weather made the flight easier,” he said adding: “Location and the surrounding areas are also suitable for take-off and landing.” He also said that the airport can come into operation after general leveling of the runway.
Captain Prabhakar Ghimire, another member of the flying crew, said land leveling is needed to avoid problems that can occur during take-off and landing. “We have tested both the approaches. The east approach can be taken if any difficulty occurs during landing,” Ghimire added.
He, however, said that the airport might go out of operation during rainy season as it is located in sloping land.
Meanwhile, the successful test flight at the airport has delighted locals of the area. Hundreds of people had assembled near the airport to witness the test flight.
Ganesh Prasad Baral, chief of District Coordination Committee, Ilam, welcomed the flight crew. Representatives of local political parties and other stakeholders were also present on the occasion.
The airport construction process had begun in 2001. The then Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal, who is a native of Ilam, had laid foundation stone for the airport project in 2001.
The length of the runway is 680 meters, while the width is 30 meters. It covers 382 ropani (one ropani is equal to 5476 square feet) of land.
According to Engineer Pushpa Neupane, the airport is suitable for Twin Otter or similar aircraft. “The airport needs earthworks in all sides. We have built runway and other structures based on the geographical situation,” Neupane told Republica.
Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has decided to blacktop the runway by next year. In the current fiscal year, CAAN has allocated Rs 100 million for the runway of the airport. Similarly, Rs 70 million is being invested to build access road to the airport. According to CAAN, more than Rs 180 million has already been invested in the project.
“We need another Rs 150 million to blacktop runway and for drainage works. However, around Rs 450 million is needed if we are to build terminal buildings,” said Neupane.