Achham district, which is connected to the rest of the country through an arduous 8 hour journey from the Tarai, will soon revive its airfield in Sanfebagar.
Work to blacktop the runway and repair the terminal building destroyed in a Maoist attack in February 2002 are ongoing, and the facility is expected to be ready before the rainy season. However, there are conflicting views about whether the airport should be opened.
A local worker in Sanfebagar told Nepali Times she would be wary about flying in if single engine planes are used to connect the district to Nepalganj or Surkhet, and if the fares are too high. Single engine Cessna Grand Caravans are not allowed to carry passengers, only cargo, and these planes are used to service STOL fields in western Nepal.
However, a new restaurant owner is happy the airfield is finally reopening after 15 years, and together with the construction of the 20MW Budi Ganga hydroelectric project would boost the economy of the region. The airfield could also service the nearby Bayalpata Hospital which caters to the medical needs of patients from six surrounding districts.
Airport runner Bijay Bahadur Kunwar told Nepali Times the facility will be opened by end-April. Officials plan to offer one flight per day but the schedule will be known only after a tender is issued for airlines to offer flight services.
“Demand should be sufficient to keep the airport operating because it will also serve surrounding districts such as Bajura, Doti, Kalikot and Dailekh,” Kunwar told Nepali Times. Currently, driving from Dhangadi is the fastest way to reach Sanfebagar from the East-West Highway which takes about eight hours non-stop.