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Strategic airport in Sikkim to be inaugurated soon

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NEW DELHI (PTI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to inaugurate the strategically-located Pakyong airport in Sikkim later this month and it could be used by the Indian Air Force in case of military requirement, official sources have said.

Without giving specific details, they said various categories of aircraft of the IAF will be able to operate from the new airport in Sikkim which shares borders with China.

The government has been focusing on improving infrastructure along the borders with China as part of a broader policy initiative.

The greenfield airport, which is around 60 KM from the Sino-India border, received the aerodrome license from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation last Friday for commercial operations.

"The Ministry is in talks with the PMO and hopefully the prime minister will inaugurate the airport given its strategic importance and significance," a source in the ministry said on Tuesday. There are indications that the airport will be inaugurated later this month.

The airport was approved by the Centre in 2008 and was constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 350 crore. The project is being billed as an engineering marvel -- it has been built at an height of 4,500 feet in an inhospitable terrain.

Once commissioned, it will the 100th functional airport in the country. As on date, Sikkim is the only state in the country without a functional airport.

Low-cost airline SpiceJet has been granted permission to fly to Pakyong from Kolkata under the Civil Aviation Ministry's regional connectivity scheme.

SpiceJet has already conducted a dry run at the airport with one its Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 aircraft successfully landing there on March 5. Also in March, A Dornier 228 of the Indian Air Force landed at the airport.

The tourism sector, in particular, is expected to benefit immensely with the opening of the airport other than the economic boon it will bring to the Himalayan state.

The nearest Bagdogra airport in West Bengal is about 150 km from Gangtok and air passengers have to take the road after alighting there.

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