Ilam's Sukilumba Airport conducts successful test flight

ILAM: After sixteen years since the process began for its construction, Falgunanda Sukilumba Airport in Ilam, district headquarters, has successfully conducted a test flight on Monday.

An aircraft belonging to Tara Air bound for Ilam from Kathmandu touched down the airport around 11:57 am this morning.

According to Captain Sanjeev Shrestha, the 19-seater Twin Otter plane took at least one hour and two minutes to reach the Sukilumba Airport in Ilam from Kathmandu today.

Shrestha further said, although the runway was not blacktopped, we did not face any issues while landing. "There was no rainfall and sky opened up nicely favouring smooth landing at the airport."

According to Shrestha, the airfield can operate during dry season.

Engineer Pushpa Neupane said, the airport with 680 metres long runway and 30 metres width provided enough space for Twin Otter planes.

"The airport has an eight per cent slope. It should have been plain, however, it has been adjusted as per the geographic condition," Neupane shared.

Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) is planning to blacktop the gravel runway in the next fiscal year.

In the current fiscal year, Rs 170 million was allotted for the construction of the runway and roadway in lower level of the airport.

According to CAAN, so far Rs 180 million has been spent for the construction of the airport. It further estimates that Rs 150 million would be required for blacktopping the runway along with sewer construction.

The construction process for the airport had already begun in 2001. Former Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal had laid the foundation stone for the construction in March 27, 2011, nearly 10 years after the process had begun. However, minimum budget allocation was the reason behind the delayed construction momentum of the airport.

Ganesh Prasad Baral, Chief of District Coordination Committee, along with major political parties' representatives and local representatives welcomed the crew members with garlands upon landing at the airport.

Hundreds of Ilam folks thronged the airport to witness a plane landing in their region for the first time.