BISHKEK, July 3 (TCA) -- It has now become a reality thanks to the launching of flights from Almaty, Kazakhstan to the village of Tamchy at Kyrgyzstan’s Issyk-Kul lake. The flights are carried out by the medium-range Yak-42 aircraft.
According to Elena Babak, director for regional development at the Manas International Airport (MIA), which includes the Issyk-Kul airport in Tamchy, this airport was built from 1975 to 1981. As a result, there appeared runways of 2,000 meters long and 45 meters wide without warning lights (even today the airport can receive aircraft only during daytime), the apron and taxiway. In 1982 due to lack of funding, the construction of the airport was frozen and only in 2003 the terminal building was built, existing artificial airport surface was renovated and the airport was provided with the necessary radio engineering and meteorological facilities.
On June 29, 2012 a Yak-42 aircraft with 102 passengers from Kazakhstan on board landed in the village of Tamchy. The flight was carried out by the Kazakh airline SCAT. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) program on local development was responsible for advertising flights. Mark Greenfield, Programme Manager, said that "The U.S. government through the USAID supports the development of tourism in Kyrgyzstan. After a comprehensive marketing and identification of interested partners, regular flights on Mondays and Fridays were initiated to meet the projected high demand for air transportations of Kazakh tourists who prefer to vacation at Issyk-Kul Lake.”
Kazakh residents Nikolay Romanov and Natalia Peshkova last year arrived in Tamchy on 48-seat An-24. "Last year, the flight lasted 45 minutes, and now – only half an hour. The launch of an aircraft with greater capacity for 102 seats is very timely – it came just at the peak of the summer holidays. The schedule is very convenient – you can fly on weekends to swim and sunbathe, and when you come back you would not feel exhausted with a long and tedious way, which spoils all the positive mood from the trip.”
According to the USAID program, from June to August 2011 the An-24 aircraft carried out 36 flights, the average occupancy totaled 75%. Only 10-20% of the tourists vacationing at Lake Issyk-Kul are Kyrgyz residents, 50-60% are from Kazakhstan, 20-25% from Russia, and 5% from other countries.
According to a representative from a Kazakh travel company, airline tickets till the end of July are already sold out, since the Kazakhs prefer the Issyk-Kul lake to Kapchagai and Ala-Kul, because the first is an artificial reservoir, and to get to the Ala-Kul one must drive on a very bad road.
According to Sheraly Abdyldayev, the Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications of Kyrgyzstan, receiving medium-range aircraft, that are capable of overcoming from 2,500 to 6,000 kilometers, was possible due to the commissioning of an additional 500-meter runway on June 25, 2012 at the expense of the Manas International Airport’s investment of $6 million. The previous 2,000-meter runway allowed the Issyk-Kul airport to receive only aircraft capable to overcome up to 2,000 kilometers and weighing up to 35 tons.
“We will develop the air communication with other regions of Kazakhstan and Siberia. To do this, the MIA has developed the project ‘Reconstruction of the Issyk-Kul airport’. To date, $18.5 million has already been invested in it. Today, investors are being sought, since the cost of the project is estimated at $68.5 million,” said Malik Busurmankulov, the vice-president of MIA. “This amount includes the construction of a new airport terminal, fuel filling complex, infrastructure, equipment of the airport with necessary equipment, further lengthening of the runway, construction of taxiway and apron expansion for large aircraft such as Boeing 737 and its analogs.”
In 2011, the Issyk-Kul airport received 57 aircraft and 17 helicopters (all in summer and during daylight due to lack of lighting equipment). The airport personnel consist of 13 people.