After being closed for almost four years, the domestic airport at Yonphula in Trashigang is expected to reopen by May this year.

According to the Department of Air Transport, the airport will be completed by the end of this month.

Almost 45 percent of the second layer of blacktopping has also been completed. Airport manager, Tshueltrim Drakpa, said that the remaining 55 percent of the blacktopping will be completed in a week’s time provided the weather conditions are favourable.

“If the works are completed as scheduled, we can have our inaugural flight at the airport within the first week of May,” said Tshueltrim Drakpa.

Harsh weather conditions remain one of the biggest challenges hindering the completion of work at the airport. The supervising engineer at the airport, Kailash Chhetri, said that a minimum of seven degree Celsius is required for blacktopping the runway. “The weather hare is unpredictable. One moment we have sunshine and the next we see clouds circling the area with heavy downpour.”

The average temperature at the location is five degree Celsius however in winter the temperature drops to as low as two degree Celsius and sometimes even below zero, said Tshueltrim Drakpa. “Precipitation also hampers the blacktopping works.”

Located at an altitude of 2,539 metres above sea level, Yonphula domestic airport was closed in 2013 for renovation, improvement of safety and compliance with international standards.

Due to some technical issues, the airport, which was supposed to be completed by October last year, was further delayed. Heavy rainfall at the location also added to the delay.

To meet international standards, the runway was extended by about 90 metres. Kailash Chhetri said that runway surface towards the south end was lowered by about 15 metres. Towards the north end the surface was raised by about eight metres.

Tshueltrim Drakpa said that the certification of the runway will be done by the Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority after completion of the project.

Of the four airports in the country, Yonphula domestic airport is the only airport that will allow only one-way take-offs and landings. The flights will enter and leave the airport from the north.

The runway is 1,460 metres in length.

Younten Tshedup |  Kanglung