Kathmandu, Jan. 1 :The Pokhara International Airport (PIA) is coming into operation from Sunday, the first day of the New Year 2023. Prime Minister Puspa Kamal Dahal Prachanda will inaugurate the aviation infrastructure in the lake city which is the capital of Gandaki province as well. Construction of the national pride project in Chhinedanda, 3km east of existing Pokhara Domestic Airport, of Pokhara Metropolitan City in Kaski district was completed at the cost of Rs. 22 billion. The project was constructed with the support of China while construction works were carried out by CAMC Engineering Company of that country.
Nepal’s Cabinet had awarded the contract to develop the airport to CAMC Engineering as per the recommendation by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation while Export-Import Bank of China had provided the loan of US$ 215.96 million. The Ministry of Finance, and Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), the aviation sector regulator in the country, had signed the loan agreement with the Chinese bank.
The test flights at the PIA were conducted for a week a month ago. Thailand’s Aero Thai had conducted the calibration flight from November 21 to 27.
The construction of the airport was completed in March 2022, and a virtual completion ceremony was organised during the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on March 26. The CAAN had announced in August that the airport would be brought into operation from January 1, 2023.
Although the ground-breaking ceremony was conducted in April, 2016, by then Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, construction works started in July, 2017. The project was expected to be completed by 2020. But various reasons including the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the project. Meanwhile, the Office of the Pokhara Metropolis issued a notice on Saturday announcing the closure of all offices and schools on January 1 and asked all to join the inaugural ceremony of the airport.
Earlier, Buddha Air had announced to conduct direct flight from Pokhara to Baranasi of India, three days a week.
Pokhara International Airport is situated at Chhine Danda, Pokhara Metropolital city, Kaski, Gandaki Province. It is approximately 3km east of Pokhara’s existing domestic airport and 200km west of capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu. Its elevation is around 800 meters above mean sea level.
According to the PIA, the airport serves as main gateway for the pilgrims and the tourists travelling to the famous religious sites, Muktinath, Jomsom and Annapurna Round Trek, among others.
The airport is expected to handle one million passengers per year. Its runway is of ICAO 4D category and is 45-metre wide and 2500-metre long, and runway designation is 12-30, informed the PIA.
The airport has three international parking bays and eight domestic parking bays.
The largest type of aircraft expected to use the airport is B737 series and similar aircraft types.
Meanwhile, issuing a statement, the Embassy of China in Kathmandu said that the PIA is designed and built in accordance with the standards of China and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which reflects the quality of Chinese projects and symbolises the national pride of Nepal.
“The new airport not only facilitates personnel exchanges between Nepal and China and other countries, but also proves the true friendship and mutual assistance between the two countries in times of adversity,” read the statement.