Gangtok: The Pakyong airport in Sikkim, inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September 2018, is on the verge of a shutdown as technical aspects have been hampering flight operations, said sources. Located 30km from capital Gangtok, this is Sikkim’s first and only table-top airport.
Private airline authorities have been facing a number of issues, which means flight operations will be halted indefinitely. The issues include a lack of Instrumental Landing System (ILS), radar and adequate runway area. Currently, the runway is only two-kilometres long and 80m wide as against the minimum mandated 150 m.
Currently, aircraft land and take off as per visual flight rules. If an ILS is installed, aircraft can land within a distance of 50m, says experts.
Fluctuating weather is a major challenge – because of this, flight operations were cancelled for nearly 20 days in a month. Due to repeated cancellations, private carrier SpiceJet has found it tough to continue operations, said a staff member.
The minimum visibility, required to be five kilometres, sometimes drops to a mere 1,200m.
Another issue is that the state government has not provided land compensation to more than 150 landowners. This means the contractor has been unable to take up operations to extend the stretch of runway and erect a strong retention wall.
Earlier, it had taken three attempts for the first test flight to land at Pakyong airport amidst difficult weather conditions.