New airport on Kuril Iturup Island receives first flight

A new airport, which opened on Monday on the South Kuril Island of Iturup, has received the first flight, an Avrora Airlines jet carrying 51 passengers, an Interfax correspondent reported from the site.

A new airport, which opened on Monday on the South Kuril Island of Iturup, has received the first flight, an Avrora Airlines jet carrying 51 passengers, an Interfax correspondent reported from the site.

"This is the first airport built from scratch in Russia's post-Soviet history. Moreover, it has been built in a swampy taiga," Sakhalin Region Governor Alexander Khoroshavin said at the airport launch ceremony.

This is a modern airport, a facility unique for the Russian Far East, he noted.

"Hopefully, it will become a regional asset after formalities have been settled. We are set to expand the flight geography," the Sakhalin governor said.

There may be flights to Iturup from Vladivostok, Khabarovsk and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, he noted.

"Contemporary navigation equipment enables the airport to operate under complicated weather patterns. The same as before, there will be four weekly flights from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk," Khoroshavin said.

The new airport has a 2.3-kilometer-long and 42-meter-wide runway and can receive Antonov An-74-200 planes.

The project was accomplished within the federal target program "The Socioeconomic Development of the Kuril Islands (the Sakhalin Region) in 2007-2015." The project cost stood at 4.5 billion rubles (over $117 million), and the money was assigned from the federal budget. The airport can connect Iturup to Khabarovsk, Vladivostok and Japan if necessary. It will also have a military use.

The operating military airfield Burevestnik, 60 kilometers (37,2 miles) from the city Kurilsk, receives civilian planes as well but it is often closed because of fog. Burevestnik will now become a reserve airfield for Iturup.

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