With the start of commercial operation of flights from the newly developed Rupsi Airport in western Assam on Saturday, the northeastern region of India gets 15th airport leading to better air connectivity with the remaining part of the world.

The Rupsi airport would cater to the need of air travellers from four western Assam districts and the neighbouring states of Meghalaya, West Bengal and parts of Bhutan as well.

Airport Authority of India (AAI) officials said that with 24 passengers on board, the maiden flight of private Flybig airlines arrived from Guwahati at the Rupsi airport on Saturday afternoon and subsequently it departed for Kolkata. ‘As a gesture of welcome, water cannon salute was accorded to the incoming flight by the Rupsi Airport officials. All safety checks and mandatory security arrangements were done prior to the arrival. Considering the Covid-19 guidelines, the proper marking and distancing measures were also ensured for all passengers. On Wednesday a trial flight was tested and operational requirements were checked successfully,’ an AAI official said.

Rupsi airport in-charge Jyotirmoy Barua said that the flight operation was started under the Regional Connectivity Scheme-Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik (RCS-UDAN) scheme of the central government.

‘It would ensure affordable flying for all especially the lower income group population here. UDAN flight provides cheap air fares for short destinations, connecting the unconnected,’ Barua said.

Through a bidding process, Flybig airline was awarded the routes under the UDAN scheme to operate flight services at Rupsi by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. The private airliner would operate flights on the Guwahati-Rupsi-Kolkata route on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday as informed by the airline.

AAI officials said that the operationalisation of the Rupsi airport, seventh airport in Assam, would help boost the local economy of the Bodoland area and provide better connectivity to the air travellers of the adjacent districts — Dhubri, Bongaigaon, Kokarajhar, Goalpara — as well as neighbouring states of Meghalaya, West Bengal and parts of Bhutan as well.

The airport in western Assam’s Dhubri district has been developed at a cost of Rs 69 crore under the RCS-UDAN scheme, launched by the Union Civil Aviation ministry in October 2016.

Spread across 337 acres, the newly-developed airport has a terminal building with an area of 3,500 square metres, and its runway is suitable for ATR-72 type aircraft. An AAI release said that the airport is also provisioned with sustainability features like rainwater harvesting system, solid waste management system and horticulture works besides being near a fenced forest with rich fauna and flora.

There are 14 airports already in the northeast region — Guwahati, Silchar, Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Tezpur and Lilalabari (Assam), Tezu and Pasighat (Arunachal Pradesh), Agartala (Tripura), Imphal (Manipur), Shillong (Meghalaya), Dimapur (Nagaland), Lengpui (Mizoram) and Pakyong (Sikkim).

The AAI is also developing the Hollongi airport in Arunachal Pradesh, boosting air connectivity in the mountainous areas.

–IANS

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