In addition, there are five ultra-light companies offering sightseeing flights to the Annapurnas from the current Pokhara airport. They were also hit by the tourism collapse, and it is not yet certain whether they will be allowed to operate from Pokhara international Airport. If not, they may have to move to the unused airport in Baglung or even Manang.
“Paragliding directly or indirectly supports over a thousand people with employment, and even as we speak there are 25 Nepalis currently undergoing training to become commercial para-pilots,” says Balram Acharya, also of the Nepal Air-sports Association.
Some say the new airport is also an opportunity to diversify paragliding and ultralight flights across Nepal and boost other local economies post-pandemic. Safety has also become a concern with overcrowding on Sarangkot, and there have been several fatal crashes in the past three years.
The terrain in Syangja, south of Pokhara, is deemed the most ideal for paragliding, and even holds international cross-country paragliding competitions and a thriving training school run by Mt Everest summiteer and adventurer Sano Babu Sunuwar.