Himachal Pradesh state capital's airport at Jubbarhatti -- located 2,196 metres above the sea level -- is one of country's 'riskiest' table-top airport like Kozhikode and needs timely expansion, aviation experts said on Saturday.
On an average, 12 to 15 unscheduled domestic flights arrive every month at the Shimla airport, officials said. Also a heli-taxi service is operated from here regularly under the Udan-II (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) scheme.
State officials told IANS that they have raised the issue with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) a number of times to explore the possibility of expansion of the airstrip at Jubbarhatti, some 22 km from here, to facilitate safe landings of aircraft.
At present, the runway is less than 1,200-metre long and its expansion is facing abnormal delays owing to nearby forest area and private land.
For the runway extension, the minimum required length is 1,500 metres which enables a 40-seater aircraft to operate as per the new safety norms, a state civil aviation official, requesting anonymity, told IANS.
In 2015, national carrier Air India's subsidiary Alliance Air conducted a test-flight to restart regular service between New Delhi and Shimla. The trial run of a 42-seat plane was successful.
Officials said landing aircraft at the Shimla airport is a challenge because of the gorges surrounding the runway.
Likewise, the airstrip in Kullu town runs parallel to the Beas river.
"Though various safety measures have been adopted at the Shimla airport, the runway should be expanded on priority, keeping in view the safety of the passengers," an airport official said here.
The state government has plans to develop a world-class airport in Mandi district to boost the state's tourism industry. For this, the Civil Aviation Ministry last year gave in-principle approval for its construction.
The state's third airport is located at Gaggal near Dharamsala in Kangra district.