Gangtok: The picturesque state of Sikkim will feature on India's aviation map from Sunday with the commissioning of a greenfield airport at an altitude of 4,500 ft between the Himalayas.
The Pakyong Airport, the tiny hilly state's first and the country's 100th functional airport, will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a government official said Wednesday.
Spread over 206 acres and built at a cost of Rs 605.59 crore, the airport is an example of stellar engineering.
Since Pakyong is located less than 30 km from the state capital Gangtok, tourists as well as local travellers will be spared of the 4-5 hour backbreaking journey uphill from the other nearest airport Bagdogra in West Bengal, the official said.
With an eye on the holiday travel season beginning with Durga Puja, SpiceJet is set to start operating daily flights to and from Kolkata and Guwahati from next month.
SpiceJet is expected to operate Bombardier Q400 aircraft with 78 seats on this sector.
As the airline has been granted permission to operate from Pakyong under the Union Civil Aviation Ministry's UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) scheme for enhancing regional connectivity, the cap on fares for the routes is Rs 2,600, another official said.
The Indian Air Force's Dornier aircraft was the first plane to be tested from Pakyong on March 5 this year.
Following this, SpiceJet conducted the successful test flight of the Bombardier Q400 from Kolkata to Pakyong on March 10 leading to security clearances for commercial operations.
The Pakyong Airport has been included in the central government's ambitious UDAN scheme. This is bound to enhance regional connectivity aiding the development of Sikkim's tourism sector, the official said.
Also, gradually, the airport may connect Sikkim with other countries in the region like Bhutan, Nepal and Thailand where people from the state usually go on vacations.
State-of-the-art geotechnical engineering including soil reinforcement and slope stabilisation techniques has gone into the making of the greenfield project that is becoming functional almost a decade after it was approved by the Union Cabinet, the official said.