The upcoming New Year marks a significant milestone for Nepal’s aviation industry as the country’s third international airport taking shape in Pokhara will come into operation from January 1, 2023. Pokhara Regional International Airport, the national pride project, is all set to commence its operations on January 1, 2023, officially. The Board of Directors of the country’s civil aviation regulator, i.e., the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), held a meeting on August 6 and confirmed the official date of the opening of Pokhara International Airport.
98% of work completed
About 98% of the physical construction work of Pokhara Regional International Airport has been completed so far, making the new facility fully ready for operation. As all the task of internal infrastructures, including the runway, main terminal building, hangar, and control tower, has been done, the airport is now ready for takeoffs and landing. The remaining work related to testing of navigation and communication equipment, calibration flights, equipment installment, fencing, cleaning, etc., will be completed by the deadline of the project, i.e., on December 31, 2022.
In fact, the original deadline for completing Pokhara International Airport was July 10, 2021. Still, given the coronavirus-triggered lockdowns and their effects on the procurement of materials and manpower supply to the construction site, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal extended the time limit by a year to July 10, 2022. Again, CAAN extended the finishing date for the second time to December 31, 2022, due to delays in calibration flights, equipment, navigation testing, etc. The concerned officials say they revised the timetable as the project couldn’t conduct the calibration flights because the EIA report wasn’t approved on time.
Calibration flights in October
Before commencing commercial flights in the newly constructed Pokhara Airport, it is essential to conduct calibration flights to ensure the airport is technically safe. Before commencing the airport operations, all new structures must undergo flight inspection, including tryouts of all infrastructures such as runway, lighting system, air communication, tower communication, landing, radars, etc. The calibration flight of Pokhara Regional International Airport is slated to begin in October, where a specially equipped calibration aircraft will test the communication and navigation aids and check the accuracy of the transmitted navigation signals to ensure the safety of aircraft in takeoffs and landings.
Upon the successful completion of calibration flights, there will be test flights, after which the airport authority will invite the air companies for a commercial flight.
Nepal’s third international flight operation point, the Pokhara Regional International Airport project, is worth Rs 22 billion, built with a loan from China’s Exim Bank. As per the loan agreement with the Export-Import Bank of China, 25% of the loan is interest-free from the Chinese government, and the rest is from the bank at a 2% interest rate. Nepal has to repay the loan within 20 years. The construction of the new facility started in 2017 after former PM KP Sharma Oli laid the foundation stone for it.
Connecting Pokhara with the globe
Once Pokhara Airport opens for business at the beginning of the New Year, it will connect the magnificent tourism destination of Pokhara with the globe. Instead of arriving at Kathmandu Airport and taking domestic flights to Pokhara, foreigners from different parts of the world can directly land at Pokhara Airport. The airport is set to operate direct services from Pokhara to major international hubs like Doha, Singapore, Azerbaijan, Beijing, etc.
According to the officials, the newly built structure is A-grade and worth taking pride in. Pokhara International Airport is highly anticipated to assist in developing and promoting Nepal’s tourism sector by linking Pokhara with the rest of the world. The 45m-wide and 2500m-long runway can accommodate medium airplanes carrying 192 to 200 passengers. The Boeing 757-200 and other similar aircraft with an MTOW of slightly over 100 tons can land and take off at the Pokhara airport. It is also possible to operate European aircraft, Airbus A320, with a load penalty. The airport is equipped to handle emergency takeoff and landings and can act as a diversion airport for Tribhuvan International Airport.
Spread over 200 hectares of land, Pokhara Regional Airport hosts two public terminals-a 10,000sqm international terminal building and a 4000sqm domestic terminal, both of which can handle 1 million passenger movements annually. The more extensive international terminal area can accommodate up to 610 departing visitors an hour.