Dara Sakor International Airport in Koh Kong province is operating a pilot flight to ensure full equipment functionality and staff capability before it applies for government licensing to officially operate.

State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) spokesperson Sin Chansereyvutha said that the airport had begun the process of operating the pilot flight from April 19, which will continue until the 26th.

During this time, staff will also be trained and tested on their ability to operate and use navigational, communication and safety instruments to international standards, and receive accreditation to prove their expertise.

Chansereyvutha said some steps remain to be taken, such as the preparation of a post-test report and the airport’s outlining of support for its technical team, with the final step being a review by the SSCA before the airport can be certified and licensed for official operation.

Though the first test flight for the airport has been scheduled for July, the spokesperson conceded that operational delays for the flight have meant the subsequent launch of the airport will be “slightly” behind schedule, but did not offer a new date.

Koh Kong provincial governor Mithona Phouthorng said she expects the influx of investors and tourists to the province to increase after the opening of the airport.

“The airport will make it easier for investors and tourists … to invest and entertain in Koh Kong. The province's new infrastructure is currently being built, with most of it nearly completed. What will help further growth is the [expansion of the] tourism sector, which will boost the

economic growth of the province. The strategic location of the airport also facilitates further travel by water, land and air,” she said.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA) president Chhay Sivlin agreed that the airport will bolster tourism activities and growth, especially as Cambodia has already been welcoming fully vaccinated international tourists.

“Koh Kong is a province with rich ecotourism potential, which encourages investors’ interest in the area’s tourism sector. In the past, there have been many international tourists interested in trips to the province, but because the airport is still under construction, some guests have had difficulties [getting here].

“But when the airport is open, direct flights will facilitate a significant increase in tourists. This will also attract more labour to the province, which will help the local economy to a greater extent,” she said.

Dara Sakor International Airport is situated on a 4.5ha plot of land in Botum Sakor district and is expected to be able to accommodate Boeing 777 and Airbus A340 aircraft.

The Chinese-listed Tianjin Union Development Group is the main investor in the international airport, having poured $350 million in capital into the project – of which the first phase of construction has cost $200 million.