Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, along with Home Minister James K Sangma and Airport Authority of India (AAI) officials, inspected the Baljek Airport in West Garo Hills district on September 3.

During his inspection, Sangma urged AAI and transport department officials over measures to speed up intervention to make the airport operational. “The objective is to make Baljek airport operational and there is a process of handing over the airport to the AAI. We hope that chopper service will be initiated and extension of runway will follow to allow more aircraft to land in future,” the chief minister said.

AAI regional executive director Sanjeev Jindal said Garo Hills region has a lot of potential in terms of agriculture and tourism. “If the airport is given to us, we will take over and work out how we can first develop for chopper service, and then for Dornier or may be ATR aircraft under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS),” Jindal said.

The AAI plans to extend its 3,300-feet runway by another 1,200 feet. An additional land of 58 acres has been acquired for expansion of the airport.

The defunct Baljek Airport is about 33 km from Tura, the district headquarters of West Garo Hills district and 310 km from Shillong.

Former President Prathiba Patil inaugurated the Baljek airport in October 2008. The small aircraft used by the president that day to attend the inauguration was the first and the last aircraft to land and take off from the airstrip of Baljek airport.

The airport was conceived in 1983 by the Meghalaya government but sanctioned by the Centre 12 years later and was built at a cost of Rs 12.52 crore.

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