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DRU-2008-04 - PLANS
DRU-2015-04 - PARO APPROACH-A.jpg
DRU-2015-04 - PARO APPROACH.jpg
Established in 1981 and started operations in 1983. A K A "Royal Bhutan Airlines." Regional, scheduled, passenger, jet airplane services.
PO Box 209
Thimphu, Lower Metithang, Bhutan
Bhutan (Kingdom of Bhutan) was established in 1947. It covers an area of 47,000 km and the capital is Thimphu. The official language is Dzongkha.
The Kingdom of Bhutan lies east of Nepal and west of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. It is south of Tibetan region of China and north of the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal. Located in the heart of the high Himalayan mountain range, Bhutan is a land-locked country surrounded by mountains in the north and west. Altitudes in the south range from 1,000 to 4,500 feet. In the more populated central regions range from 400 feet in the east around Tarshigang to a high of 17,000 feet over the highest pass. The altitude at Thimphu the capital is 7,700 feet.
A population of 600,000 is made up primarily of indigenous Bhutanese known as the Drukpa. 3 main ethnic groups, the Ngalops, Sharchops and the Lhotshampas make up today’s Drukpa. The Ngalops migrated from the Tibetan plains and are the importers of Buddhism into Bhutan. The Sharchops reside predominantly in eastern Bhutan and their origin can be traced to the tribes of N Burma and NE India. The lower southern regions are inhabited by Lhotshampas, who are mostly agricultural workers. The geography of the land kept each ethnic group separate until the middle of this century, when roads were built across the country. The contrasting ethnic diversity has meant that a number of different languages and dialects are spoken throughout the kingdom.
Bhutan enjoys 4 seasons, each having its advantages and disadvantages to the visitor. The southern plains close to the Indian border are warmer and more tropical than higher central valleys. Spring is perhaps the most beautiful time of the year, when the fierce cold that characterizes the winter months, tends to subside towards the end of February, with beautiful Rhododendron blooming with spectacular flaming red, pink and white colors. Summer months in the southern region are generally hot, whereas in other parts of the country, it is warm and pleasant with average maximum temperatures not exceeding 30 degrees Celsius and the minimum at around 10 to 15 degrees Celsius. The annual monsoon from the Bay of Bengal is also experienced around the country between June and September. The autumn months from September to November, bring shorter days and cooler evenings. The days are crisp with clear skies. Views over the Himalayas are usually the best during September to March. Beginning in December, the weather takes on its winter coat, where days remain crisp and the nights turn cold. The southern region, however, being much lower, have a more temperate climate and considerably warmer winters.
The Buddhist faith has played and continues to play a fundamental role in the cultural, ethical and sociological development of Bhutan and its people. It permeates all strands of secular life, bringing with it, a reverence for the land and its well being. Annual festivals are held in each district, which are important spiritual occasions. Festivals are becoming a major attraction to tourists visiting Bhutan. Bhutan is perhaps the only country in the world to retain the tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism as its official religion. To ensure the perpetuation of Buddhism in the Kingdom, one son from each family normally attends monastic school. While the Dzongs are centers of administrative and government activities for all the valley, they are also predominantly the homes and temples of the monastic community/body.
January 1983: Established by royal proclamation, Royal Bhutan Airlines (DRU) began operations with 2 Dornier 228s.
April 1988: Started jet airplane services.
June 2003: 170 employees. SITA: QJCRRKB.
February 2004: 2 orders (11/04) A319 (CFM56-5B).
April 2004: 200 employees.
October 2004: 1st A319-115 (2306, A5-RGF) delivery.
November 2004: A319-112 (2346, A5-RGG) delivery.
January 2006: Drukair (DRU) will resume service fom Paro to Dacca in March. The airline will operate 2 flights a week. Drukair (DRU) will also increase the frequency of flights from Paro to Mumbai from 3 to 5 at the same time as it starts its summer schedule. All flights are operated with a pair of A319s. (DRU) is also planning a route to Hong Kong that would operate via Kathmandu and is looking at other new routes to Chennai, Dubai and Singapore. If those are started, (DRU) might bring back its 2 B Ae 146s into service.
December 2007: 2 B AE 146-100s (E1095; E1199), sold to StarPeru.
January 2008: 2007 = 120,000 passengers.
April 2008: Is considering acquiring a 3rd A319 to boost services on existing routes and perhaps to add new routes in the future - SEE ATTACHED - - "DRU-PLANS-APR08."
May 2011: ATR42-500 (622, A5-RGH "Great Lamou"), bought from Polynesian Government, ex-(F-OITQ).
August 2011: As the national airline of Bhutan, DrukAir (DRU) "Royal Bhutan Airlines" operates scheduled services to cities in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Thailand.
(IATA) Code: KB - 787. (ICAO) Code: DRK - (Callsign - ROYAL BHUTAN).
Parent organization/shareholders: Ministry of Finance, Royal Government of Bhutan (100%).
Alliances: Biman Bangladesh Airlines (BNG); Indian Airlines (IND); & Royal Nepal Airlines (RNA).
Main Base: Paro Airport (PBH) (2,240 m/7,335 ft). Paro is the only airport in Bhutan, which is located in a deep valley at an elevation of 7,300 ft above sea level. The surrounding hills are high as 16,000 ft and the approach into Paro airport is entirely by visual flight rules.
International, Scheduled Destinations: Bangkok; Delhi; Dhaka (Bangladesh); Gaya (India); Hong Kong; Kathmandu; Kolkata; Mumbai; & Yangon.
February 2012: Drukair (DRU) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for an A319 airplane fitted with fuel saving Sharklets to complement its existing fleet of 2 A319s.
Surrounded by a tall wall of mountains and located at an altitude of over >7,000 feet, (DRU) operates out of 1 of the world’s most challenging airports at Paro, where approach is by Visual Flight Rules (VFR) only. This means the flight crew (FC) can only fly by vision, which requires a high performance and responsive airplanes. The A319 is the largest airplane operating out of Paro.
“For any landlocked country, aviation is the gateway to the world and its economic importance cannot be overestimated,” said Dasho Sonam Tshering, Drukair Chairman. “The A319 is the largest airplane flying to Bhutan, and it has allowed us to welcome even more visitors in comfort and style.”
(DRU) will deploy the new airplane to increase capacity on existing regional routes as well as to open up new services to Singapore and Hong Kong.
Sharklets have been specially designed for the A320 family to reduce fuel burn by up to an additional -3.5%, corresponding to an annual CO2 reduction of around -700 tonnes per airplane. This reduction is equivalent to the CO2 produced by around 200 cars annually. The wingtip devices will also enhance the airplane’s performance.
May 2012: DrukAir (DRU) now flies to Mumbai Airport in India from the airline’s Paro Airport base in Bhutan.
July 2012: DrukAir (DRU) confirmed a previously announced order for one Sharklet-equipped A319; it currently operates 2 standard A319s.
September 2012: Druk Air (DRU) launched 2x-weekly, Paro to Singapore A319 service on September 1, operating via Kolkata (CCU) in India, using 114-seat A319 airplanes. This makes Singapore only the 5th country to be connected with Bhutan by air. The Tourism Council of Bhutan figures show that about 1,300 visitors from Singapore headed for Bhutan in 2011, representing an increase of >70% over 2010. Changi Airport Group’s Executive VP Air Hub Development, Yam Kum Weng, commented: “In recent years, more people in Singapore and the region are looking forward to visiting Bhutan to experience its unspoilt, exotic beauty and rich culture. Drukair’s commencement of flights from Paro to Singapore is timely in meeting this increasing market demand, and enhancing the people-to-people exchange between the 2 countries.” Tandin Jamso, (DRU)’s (CEO), added: “Drukair (DRU) is honored by the warm welcome given by Singapore. For (DRU), Singapore is not just another destination, but an opportunity to bring our 2 nations and people together. (DRU) aims to connect Singapore to Bhutan, and afford its people an opportunity to experience a way of life that is slowly fading in many countries, an opportunity to experience happiness like the Bhutanese. The goal of (DRU) is to eventually make Singapore our gateway to the world.”
August 2013: (AAR) (AFD)/(ALC) has modified cabins on 3 A319-100s flown by Bhutan’s Drukair (DRU).
September 2013: Drukair (A K A "Royal Bhutan Airlines") (DRU), the national airline of the Kingdom of Bhutan, has signed a contract with Airbus (EDS) "ProSky" to improve the overall safety and efficiency of its operations through Performance-Based Navigation (PBN). With the assistance of ProSky, (DRU) will utilise Required Navigation Performance Authorization Required (RNP AR) procedures throughout its network, starting with Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA). These navigation techniques will allow airplanes to fly precisely along predefined routes using on-board navigation systems and the (GPS)-based global navigation satellite system, thereby resulting in higher efficiency and enhanced safety.
In 2011, Airbus (EDS) supported the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) with the implementation of (RNP AR) procedures to improve operational safety at (TIA), known for its challenging terrain and steep conventional Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Range (VOR) approach. The additional track flexibility provided by (RNP AR) now allows approved airplanes to fly around terrain that was previously overflown when using conventional methods (this means a smooth descent and fully stabilized approach). An additional benefit is greater operations reliability in adverse weather conditions.
"Drukair (DRU) has extensive experience flying conventional procedures in challenging terrain like (Paro) and (TIA)," said Mr Tandin Jamso, Drukair (DRU) (CEO). "Safety is our top priority and we are going to take full advantage of the most sophisticated technologies to improve operational safety and flight punctuality. Airbus ProSky's expertise in (PBN) design and regulation will facilitate a smooth transition from (VOR) to (RNP AR) operations using the industry's best practices."
Airbus (EDS) ProSky will also assist (DRU) with the design of Engine-Out Standard Instrument Departures (EOSID). (EOSID)s are navigation procedures designed to ensure obstacle clearance at the most critical point during takeoff. This will be developed for both (TIA) runways and will optimize (DRU) flights' payload, while also providing fully managed and fixed trajectories, in all conditions.
According to Captain Sangay Wangchuk, (DRU) General Manager Flight Operation & Crew Training, "By choosing Airbus ProSky to support our (RNP AR) project, assist with authority approval and set up a comprehensive training program, we are extremely confident that Drukair (DRU) will meet the regulatory requirements and achieve unprecedented benefits including enhanced safety and seamless operations."
"(DRU) firmly believes in giving their passengers the best flying experience possible. By implementing (RNP AR) operations, they are putting safety first. We are privileged to work with (DRU) and make this project a success not only for the airline, but also for the passengers," said Paul-Franck Bijou, (CEO), Airbus ProSky.
October 2013: A320-232 (2987, LY-SPB), ex-(P4-UAS), Small Planet Airlines (LIJ) leased.
March 2015: A319-115 (6496, A5-JSW), ex-(D-AVYB), delivery.
April 2015: Drukair (DRU) Pilots’ Routine Life Is The Extraordinary
by Jens Flottau "Aviation Week & Space Technology," April 21, 2015.
Drukair (DRU) operates into 1 of the world’s most challenging airports. Unpredictable weather, the high altitude of Paro airport, surrounding mountains, and the lack of navigational aids, make good pilot (FC) training paramount for a safe operation.
The national airline of Bhutan is 1 of only 2 airlines that fly into the country’s sole international airport. The field is situated in a narrow valley at an altitude of 7,350 ft. The mountains nearby are up to 15,000 ft high. The runway is 7,430 ft long and 98 ft wide. With only a (VHF) omni-directional range (VOR) and distance measuring equipment (DME) in the vicinity of the airport, all approaches and departures have to be flown according to visual flight rules. There is no margin for error: the valley is so narrow that whenever an airplane approaches for landing, or is about to take off, the road along the airport fence is closed by police.
“You have to know the landmarks and you always have to have an escape plan,” says Sonam Tobgay, a Senior Training Captain for Drukair (DRU).
In theory, landings and takeoffs are possible in both directions for what is designated Runway 33 and 15. But “we try to avoid this (15 approach) as much as possible;” said Tobgay. It is a very tricky maneuver. Airplanes attempting to land, must fly over peaks around 13,000 ft high in the immediate vicinity of the airport and then go for a circling approach into the Dupshare valley. There is no way to line up with the extended runway center line early, because there is a hill literally a few hundred feet northwest of the runway. “We have to level the wings, flare and reduce power at 50 ft simultaneously,” Tobgay said. “It is real multitasking.”
The approach for Runway 33 is a little less challenging, because there is more time to follow the curved valley down to the threshold, and a few more seconds to align with the runway.
Takeoffs are equally tricky, particularly when provisioning for one-engine-out scenarios. An engine failure at takeoff from Runway 33 would be the worst case: “If you respect your procedures, you can make it,” says Tobgay. Respecting procedures here, means going into takeoff-go-around (TOGA) mode immediately, retracting the gear, then following a visual departure path that is designed to gain as much altitude as possible. The problem with that takeoff is that there is no escape from the Dupshare valley, which is surrounded by mountains exceeding 16,000 ft. It is possible to make a turn back to the airport inside the valley, but only at a sufficient altitude.
Airplanes taking off toward the southwest have the advantage of being able to follow the valley with one engine out and then turn right, following another valley until it becomes wide enough for the turn at a lower altitude.
Because Paro is such a challenging airport, only Captains (FC) are allowed to fly into and out of it. And they, too, have to go through extra training before they are approved for line operations. There is a special simulator for training to become familiar with the conditions, followed by the so-called valley checks. Any new Captain (FC) has to fly 30 sectors under supervision.
But terrain alone is not the only issue in Paro. From February to May, it is essentially impossible to fly in the afternoon. Winds as strong as 80 to 90 kt hit the mountains and cause severe turbulence during the valley approaches. Sometimes the wind does not even allow operations in the morning. Airplanes coming in from New Delhi or Bangkok, often divert to Bagdogra in India “and wait it out,” as Tobgay said.
See video "DRU-A319 Landing at Paro Airport, Bhutan" - -
April 2018: Drukair (DRU), the flag carrier of Eastern Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, has signed a purchase agreement for 1 Airbus A320neo to support its growth plans and complement its existing fleet of 3 A319s. The aircraft will be powered by (CFM) (Leap-1A26E1) engines optimized for high altitude operations and will become the largest aircraft operating out of (DRU)’s base in Paro. Featuring a 2-class cabin layout, the aircraft will be deployed to increase capacity on existing regional routes to Singapore, Bangkok, Kathmandu, Delhi and, Calcutta.
September 2018: See video of DrukAir (DRU) A319 A5-JSW landing at Paro Bhutan: