Southbound: Druk air spreads its wings to Gelephu yesterday Gelephu Airport The excitement that kept him awake for most part of the night culminated in his actually boarding the flight and for the first time getting an aerial view of Gelephu.Til Bahdur Bomzom, 89, from Norbugang village, was the oldest among two groups of 40 local passengers who took turns to board the 48-seater Druk Air’s ATR-42 for a 10-minute soar in the air.
The passengers were selected on a lucky dip basis to fly over Pemathang and Samtenthang villages, just above the airport.But much before that, for all passengers who considered themselves lucky, it began with gaping mouths, which some tried to force shut at the sight of the plane that whistled past them in a zippy.“I always wondered how it would be to be flying in an airplane,” he said. “It felt just like I imagined in my dreams.”
Til Bahdur said that ever since the talk of Gelehpu airport arose, he always wished to see a plane.“Not only have I witnessed with thrill it landing on the airstrip, but I also had the opportunity to experience flying in it,” he said.Another passenger on board said he was initially nervous about flying, but all that faded once he was on board and looking down the little window of the plane.“It was such a wonderful experience to see the whole of Gelephu as though through a telescope,” he said.
After the brief flight and on landing, they wondered how Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y Thinley was able wave his hands at people who were waiting to receive him.The prime minister was on board at the inauguration on landing said the country had reached an advanced level of development besides other achievements in terms of roads, electricity, water supply, communications and school enrollment.“Given the space and proximity to the border town of India, unlike other airports, Gelephu had high scope for economic boom,” Lyonchhoen said. “But economy will not come because there’s infrastructure in place, it’s for you to make best use of it all.”
Civil aviation officials were unsure when the regular schedule flight to Gelephu would resume.“It was just an inauguration because the day was good and appropriate,” civil aviation director Wangdi Gyeltshen said.To have a scheduled flight, he said Druk Air would need some time to do proper marketing and analysis before flying regularly.“It’ll depend on the responses of the users and if it is positive Drukair may begin flight soon,” Wangdi Gyeltshen said. “The department will also need some time to fence and strengthen security following recent incidents.”
The airport located above Gelephu-Sarpang highway about 2km from Gelephu town has about 500 acres of land area.The strip is about 1,500m with 40m in width.Information and communications minister Nandalal Rai and Labour minister Dorji Wangdi were also on board with Lyonchhoen.