GANGTOK: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday inaugurated Sikkim's first airport at Pakyong and said with the development of the 100th airport, the country has hit a century.
"India has hit a century," the Prime Minister said as he dedicated the country's 100th operational airport to the people of Sikkim.
आज का ये दिन सिक्किम के लिए तो ऐतिहासिक है ही, देश के लिए भी महत्वपूर्ण है।
पाक्योंग एयरपोर्ट के खुलते ही देश में एयरपोर्ट की सेंचुरी यानि शतक लग गया है।
अपने पहले और देश के सौवें एयरपोर्ट से जुड़ने पर आप सभी को बहुत-बहुत बधाई: PM
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) September 24, 2018
''With the inauguration of the greenfield airport, the country currently has 100 airports,'' the Prime Minister said.
— BJP (@BJP4India) September 24, 2018
In his inaugural speech, the PM said that his government is committed to make the Northeast an "engine of India's growth story". "We are committed to making the North East as an engine for India's growth story. For the first time since independence, stress has been given on increasing connectivity by both air and rail, electricity in remote areas of the North East and building infrastructure."
The PM also attacked the previous government for ignoring the Northeast and a slow pace of development work in the region.
"Since Independence, the country had only 65 airports till 2014. But in the last four years, we have built 35 airports. Earlier the average was one airport every year, now the average is nine airports per year," PM Modi said.
He said that in the last 70 years, the country had 400 aircraft but in one year 1,000 new aircraft were ordered by various airlines.
"Our efforts were to enable common people who wear hawai chappal to travel by hawai jahaj (aeroplane)," he said.
Pakyong Airport is also one of the five highest airports in India.
"I would like to congratulate all engineers and workers for the construction of this airport. They have done a commendable job," the PM said.
He also said that Pakyong Airport would minimise the travel duration of hours into minutes.
Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu, who was also present on the occasion, said the dream of the people of Sikkim to have an airport of their own has now come true.
This will help in increasing the number of tourists visiting the state and that way increase the income of local people thereby help in further development of Sikkim, he said.
The Prime Minister had sought to bring all the state capitals in the railway map, he said.
''Work is on to get Sikkim into the map and it has now got its first airport,'' Prabhu said.
Situated near Gangtok, Pakyong Airport is also a greenfield airport. A greenfield airport is a facility that reflects environmental qualities. These projects use undeveloped/empty fields and construct them from scrach. A greenfield denotes that a project lacks any constraints imposed upon it by prior work or existing infrastructure.
Pakyong project is one of the tallest reinforced soil structures in the world.
Constructed by AAI (Airport Authority of India), Pakyong has a 1,700 m long and 30 m wide runway. Pakyong can accomodate two ATR 72 aircraft at a time.
The terminal building of Pakyong can house 100 passengers and provides a parking facility for 80 cars. It also houses a fire station and an Air Traffic Control Tower.
An IAF Dornier 228 landed at the surface of Pakyong Airport on March 5, 2018, for the first time.
However, the first landing by a commercial flight - a SpiceJet Bombardier plane - took place on March 10, 2018.
Pakyong will also serve as an important facility for the Indian Army as the airport lies only 60 km away from India-China border.
IAF will be able to land military aircraft at the airport as well.
Spicejet will be operating its first commercial flight from Pakyong to Kolkata in the first week of October.