Secretary Aviation and Director General, Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority Shahrukh Nusrat have issued directives to make Saidu Shareef, Muzaffarabad and Rawalakot Airports ready for flight operations. The CAA had downscaled the Rawalakot airport in October 2005and the Muzaffarabad airport in November 2006 because of the PIA’s inability to continue its services there.
In May 2015 an amount of Rs450 million for the Muzaffarabad airport and Rs259m for the Rawalakot airport was allocated under the Public Sector Development Programme after the AJK government expressed its desire for the work to begin on a war footing. The CAA has recommended extension in runways and air navigation facilities, rehabilitation of terminal and extension of apron to able to park three to four aircraft because of hilly location of the airports.
A team of experts reported that the extension of runway to 4,500ft was not compatible with the ATR aircraft while the PIA wants the extension of the Muzaffarabad airport up to 5,478ft for smooth take-off of the ATR aircraft.
Saidu Shareef airport (IATA: SDT, ICAO: OPSS)
The Said Shareef airport also known as Kanju airport is located near Swat and it was closed in 2007 and at the time PIA was serving this route with flights from Peshawar and Islamabad. The airport was established in 1978, and it used to handle two flights a day from Islamabad and Peshawar but it was closed down when the law and order situation in the valley deteriorated. Facilities at the airport were damaged by terrorists in 2008. The airport was rehabilitated in 2014.
On October 10, PIA ATR 42-500 (AP-BHM) operated test flight PK-641 from Islamabad to Saidu Sharif. It was first landing of a PIA flight at Saidu Sharif Airport after a gap of more than 5 years. PIA had suspended its flights for Saidu Sharif on June 15, 2007.
Muzaffarabad airport (IATA: MFG, ICAO: OPMF)
Muzaffarabad was a regular destination for PIA and in the 1980s and 1990s, PIA operated flights that connected Muzaffarabad with Islamabad. PIA used the 18-seater de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 aircraft that are capable of performing Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) from
Muzaffarabad Airport’s 2,960 feet long runway. It is assumed that after PIA phased out these aircraft the airport was abandoned. If PIA or any other airline is planning to start flights it will require similar aircraft unless CAA is planning to increase the length of the runway to accommodate aircraft like ATR 42.
Rawlakot airport (IATA: RAZ, ICAO: OPRT)
Rawlakot Airport opening date is unknown but it remained in service till the early 1990s. It has a small runway and terminal. The route was not profitable and lack of demand meant the airport was abandoned. The route was mostly used by locals to reach out of the city. Twin Otter used to come back to Islamabad full but go back to Rawalakot with only 5-10% passenger load. Local Businessmen used the route to go to Islamabad to buy stock for their shops but would take buses to come back to Rawalakot to bring their resaleable items.
Old PIA timetables show a good number of flights operated by the PIA for Rawalakot and Muzaffarabad with Twin Otter.
It had almost 6 flights a week as follow:
* Flight PK-429 on Islamabad to Rawalakot to Muzaffarabad route on every Thursday.
* Flight PK-425 on Islamabad to Muzaffarabad to Rawalakot route on every Saturday.
* Flight PK-423 on Islamabad to Rawalakot route on every Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday.
* Flight PK-433 on Islamabad to Rawalakot route on every Friday.