Gautam Buddha International Airport, also known as Lumbini International Airport, is proposed as the second international airport of Nepal. This airport is constructing in Bhairahawa, Rupandehi district. Upon completing this airport, it will serve as an alternative airport to the only international airport here in Nepal, Tribhuwan International Airport, which is facing massive traffic in recent years. Apart from this international airport, there is one domestic airport at Bhairawaha, which is upgrading as an international airport. With the target of completion within the year 2020, Nepal is marking Visit Nepal Year 2020; the workers are continuously finishing this project on time, i.e., before 2020. There is also a plan for a test flight in a few months.
The Bhairahawa airport was first operated in 1958 and had been serving as a domestic airport to date. This airport has been helping to connect different districts nearby and the tourists who visit Lumbini as a Buddhist Heritage Tour.
Due to the excess pressure and traffic on the only international airport here in Kathmandu, then Prime Minister of Nepal, Sushil Koirala, laid the foundation stone for this project in 2015 with the deadline of December 2017. But due to various reasons like political protest, border blockade, shortage of construction material, and payment issues between the Nepali contractor and the Chinese contractor, the deadline has been revised twice. However, if everything goes as planned without any obstruction during construction, it promises to be complete within the year 2020. With the completion of almost 50 percent physical progress, the authorities are planning for a test flight in October 2019. Upon completing this national pride construction, it has the vision to add value as the industrial hub for Bhairahawa and Butwal. And also increase international pilgrimage in Lumbini for Buddhist Pligimrage travelers. Upon completion of upgrading, the handling capacity of this airport will be increased to 750,000 annually and 4000 passengers in an hour.
This newly upgrading Gautam Buddha International Airport next to the Buddhist Tourist Site is located at an altitude of 109 m above sea level and has a runway of 3000 meters. The whole airport covers an area of 10,000 Ropani ( 1257 Acar ). There will be a hanger, an immigration area, Nepal Oil Corporation depot, and radar. With the two-way approach, this airport will hold (park) at least ten planes. The current parking spot of this airport can accommodate only six small aircraft. This new terminal building will serve travelers with the latest new technology, and the capacity will be more than the current international airport. Also, there will be an aero-bridge built for the passenger, which helps passengers to enter aircraft directly from the terminal and vice versa.
Nepal's new Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA), also known as Lumbini International Airport, is expected to meet the government target of commencing operations in mid-2020, marking Visit Nepal Year 2020 and becoming Nepal's second international airport. Upon completion, the airport will serve as an alternative to Tribhuwan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu, which faces a massive rise in traffic due to a steady increase in international tourists in recent years via Buddhist Door.
The completion of this Gautam Buddha International Airport is expected that more people will visit Nepal. Similarly, it will help control the air traffic in the Tribhuwan International Airport by diverting the flight to the Gautam Buddha International Airport. Upon completing this international airport, it will help tourists directly fly to Gautam Buddha International Airport, avoiding the consisted Tribhuwan International Airport in Kathmandu.
During the Coronavirus Lockdown (COVID-19), the working progress of Lumbini Regional International Airport was slow. Surely it will push the project ending date by a little far. Although the opening day as Commercial International Airport is not mentioned yet, the project is keen to complete before the date. As the press release of 22 July 2020, about 91% of the task is completed. As the contractor, if there will not be big trouble, Lumbini Regional International Airport will be ready for commercial flights within the next nine months.
As the technical officer, it takes about three months to certify and approve the airport as the international Regional Airport of Lumbini. Further, he adds, the instruments of ICB-1 are already completed. Communication, navigation, surveillance instruments, weather forecasting, and systems. Of ICB-2 are under their way to completion. Similarly, fourth taxiway, filling, fencing and gardening, final painting touch, air conditioning and wiring, runway and electrical works are major work to benefit monsoon season.
However, the previous deadline to complete this project was 31 March 2020. Therefore, this national pride project was started on 31 December 2014 by the Northwest Civil Aviation. By its completion, Lumbini International airport can handle 16000 passengers daily.
As the Expert's words, Lumbini Regional Airport will be bigger, better, and more advanced than Kathmandu International Airport, the second International Airport of Nepal.
The new under constructing Gautam Buddha International Airport of Lumbini Provinces of Nepal is at the final stages for a test flight. The test flight is the final stage for all aspects of aviation technical job, which is the different section to the physical infrastructure. As the report of 22 July 2021, the Project chief said, the physical structure of the airport complex will be complete in 2-3 days from now. He added that the contractor sends us the report to complete, but we need 2-3 days to inspect the work to get the green signal. Then only can we say, Gautam Buddha International Airport is ready? He further says the quality and safety check will be complete today.
Whether international, regional, or domestic, every airport must do a Test Flight before it gets its ICAO to approve. In other words, this is mentioned as Calibration Flight, which is the complete technical testing flight only possible calibration aircraft. Calibration Flight is the first flight to ensure all aviation tools and types of equipment of the ground services. Like communication of airport tower, its runway navigation, Test Flight with calibration aircraft is the most crucial aspect like the single receiver, lightning, radar, communication, antenna, even attitude and longitude to minimize the measurements errors and uncertainties to the acceptable levels.
As the Ministry of Tourism of Nepal, Aeronautical Radio of Thailand Ltd ( AERO THAI ), a subsidiary company of Thai Airways, will dot this test flight next month. This process usually takes 4-6 hours in 1-2 days, in which the calibration flight will fly over the runway numbers times to get the exact update for official use in ICAO. The test flight agreement was already signed with Aero Thai for a Gautam Buddha International Airport calibration flight. However, there is no fixed date due to the Covid-19 pandemic second wave and irregular international flights.
The time of the opening ceremony of this new international airport is not far. The aviation department and a team of Gautam Buddha International Airport are working hard to mee the new day for the grand opening on the day of Buddha Purnima on May 17, 2022. To get that timeline, a Calibration flight to check all the Ground Navigation, Control Units, and related systems are going on with Aero Thai Ltd from February 17, 2022.
General Manager of Lumbini International Airport Mr. G P Dahal says that all the preparations including air space planning, air travel route design, flight procedure system have been completed for the operation of air services from this airport. He said various popular international airlines have also started preparations to operate their services from here. GBIA administration department added; various airlines including Qatar Airways, Fly Dubai, Sri Lankan Airways, and Myanmar Airways have recently shown interest in operating their services from the airport. Sri Lankan and Myanmar Airways are interesting to fly to this airport since Lumbini; the birthplace of Lord Gautam Buddha is just 17 Km away. They see the opportunity of Buddhist Pilgrimage and Buddhist Heritage Tour will be big in the coming day due to easy traveling.
As the airport is of the Four E category, Boeing 777-200, Airbus A330-300 types of the plane will be able to serve from here and direct flights will be available from here even during the flight period of more than five hours. That means direct flights from Bhairahawa to Japan, Australia to Europe, America in coming years.
Crossing hundreds of huddles, waiting for many daces, and spending millions of dollars, Gautam Buddha Airport is not getting ready to welcome you to the second International airport of Nepal. However, this is the regional airport waiting for world travelers but seems to become the first Pokhara International Airport. Therefore, Gautam Buddha International airport will be the most significant gift for Nepal, travelers, and the tourism industry. In short, Gautam Buddha International airport is the most important achievement for Nepal Trekking 2022.