Thursday, 26 June 2008

Bhutan : Paro airport expansion proposal

25 June, 2008 - Paro airport could see separate arrival and departure terminal buildings, a broadened runway, modern landing lights, bigger maintenance area, and separate access roads, according to a new proposal plan.

“Our airport is reaching close to its capacity and this plan will ensure that we can handle the increasing number of visitors to our country up to 2030,” said the deputy director of civil aviation, Karma Wangchuk. By 2030 there could be around a million annual visitors on the higher level and around half of that at a medium level, according to a DCA growth scenario. “Even in the next five years, our tourism sector is targetting an additional 100,000 tourists, which will need more infrastructure,” said Karma Wangchuk.

The plan has been divided in terms of priority and size into short term, medium term and long term. In the short term, the arrival hall will see some offices giving space to a broader arrival hall with an additional conveyor belt. Turn pads will also be built on the runway to allow planes to turn around naturally without having to rotate on their front wheels. “This rotation shortens the life of the tyres and also damages the tarmac,” said Karma Wangchuk.

New lights will also be installed along the runway, allowing pilots to better gauge the altitude while landing. Work on relocating the RBA and Indian Air force quarters to a more suitable location near the airport will also start, along with river protection works, according to civil aviation officials.

“The medium term plan will consist of shutting down the present road to the airport and opening up a separate route along the river,” said Karma Wangchuk. He also said that there would be new parking spaces, a new maintenance area, and relocation of the cargo terminal.

The long-term plan will be building a new terminal building, which will mean that the current terminal will be for departures while the new terminal will be for arrivals. The new terminal will also house the arrival and departure section for domestic flights within the country. “Both terminals will be connected allowing tourists and visitors to even take interconnecting flights and avoid other formalities,” said Karma Wangchuk. The runway will be significantly widened on either side, which will meet Airbus airplane specifications, and separate parking areas will be designated for the two terminals. The apron will also be extended, allowing more parking area for more planes.

“If the project is approved under the 10th plan, the time period for the completion of the entire project could be between 5 to 10 years,” said Karma Wangchuk.

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