Monday, 29 August 2011

Bhutan - Fifth grounding in three months

29 August, 2011 - For at least the fifth time, in less than three months, a technical problem has grounded Drukair’s ATR aircraft yet again.

A leak in the ATR 42-500’s hydraulic system is the latest technical problem to plague the twin turbo propeller aircraft. “As per engineering department, ATR is having hydraulic break system leak,” said Drukair CEO, Tandin Jamso. He acknowledged that the problem was serious enough to ground the 48-seater aircraft. The hydraulic system is required, among others, to utilise the aircraft’s wheel brakes.

The aircraft is expected to be grounded until Wednesday, according to the CEO. Spare parts from the USA are scheduled to arrive on that day.

The last grounding, which lasted for five days and ended only a week ago, was also because of a technical problem. The ATR’s de-icing boot on one of its wings required replacing after it was found ruptured. The de-icing boot is a rubber device on the front surface edge of aircraft wings that allow for mechanical de-icing. The front surface edge of an aircraft is an area, where ice is likely to form and disrupt airflow, which can lead to loss of control.

A damaged wheel bearing in its nose landing gear grounded the ATR for about two weeks, earlier this month. The entire nose landing gear had to be shipped to Singapore for repair.

Prior to this, the ATR required two more groundings to prevent the airline’s only two pilots qualified to fly the aircraft, from exceeding permitted flying hours.

The ATR was inducted into the Drukair fleet in mid-June after another two-week delay, for painting purposes, according to the airline.

On whether the national airline is concerned with the recent spate of technical problems, Tandin Jamso, pointed out that the airline considers the ATR still in “good condition” and “fairly new”. He said that the aircraft, despite its age of nine years, had flown a little more than 3,300 hours. Drukair’s airbus jets fly that amount in one year, he added.

The ATR, which previously was used by the French Polynesian government of Tahiti as a VIP aircraft, had been parked most of the time, said Tandin Jamso, adding that as a result, such “unforeseen” technical issues were bound to arise. He compared it to a car parked in the garage for a long time.

Prior to purchasing the aircraft, a technical examination by foreign experts had been carried out, said Tandin Jamso. He added that all technical checks as required by regulations had been conducted. Similarly, the French Polynesian government, in a previous email interview with Kuensel, said that an independent team had conducted a technical check of the aircraft prior to sale.

Tandin Jamso said that Drukair engineers also carry out daily checks and maintenance of Drukair aircraft. The low hydraulics fluid level was discovered during such a check, he said, leading to the discovery of a damaged pipe.

The CEO said that the series of recent technical problems are simply coincidences and bad luck.

One of Drukair’s airbus jets was also grounded for a number of days this month after an unusual bird strike. Following the incidents, the airline performed a three-day rimdro or prayer ceremony for its aircraft, employees, and other related matters. This is the ATR’s second grounding since the rimdro.

Tandin Jamso said that passengers do not have to expect scheduled flight disruptions, as both airbus jets are on hand.

The department of civil aviation did not comment on the grounding, given that the issue had not yet been filed with the authority, as it took place during the weekend.

By Gyalsten K Dorji

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Bhutan - Royal wedding keeps boot makers busy

The royal wedding is around the corner. There is so much excitement. There is so much expectation. And this excitement and expectation is nowhere more apparent than at a small tailor shop in Chubachu, dealing in Tsholham.

Made from brocade and decorated with elaborate embroidery, the Tsholhams are traditional boots, worn at formal events and ceremonies.

The shop has been flooded with orders from high ranking officials, the monk body, civil servants and businessmen. Its employees are working round the clock to meet the deadline.

Jangchukla who owns the shop said “for the chipdrel (ceremonial) procession alone, we have received orders for hundred pairs of boots. We have also received orders from schools and dzongkhags. So we are busy at the moment.”

A pair of the ordinary traditional boots cost Nu.1,800. The price can go up to Nu.6,000 depending on the quality of the brocade used in making the boots and the complexity of the embroidery.

To cash in on the occasion, the shop is selling the ordinary boots at Nu.1,500 a pair.

So far they have received orders for more than 200 pairs.

Nawang Dendup, a teacher had come all the way from Lhuentse to have his feet measured and place the order. He is also buying for his friends.

“We cannot come to Thimphu to celebrate the wedding but we will be celebrating in our school. I bought 15 pairs. I think I will need more than that. I have placed orders for 20 more, which I will come to collect later.”

Meeting the ever growing demand is not going to be easy. The shop has nine employees. Working non-stop, they can make a pair of boots each in a day.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Bhutan - Can DCA do it?

Air Traffic Control 17 August, 2011 - The department of civil aviation (DCA) says that it is fully capable of taking over air traffic control (ATC) at Paro airport.

The department’s statement comes in the wake of a media report saying that sources from within the Indian air force (IAF), currently in charge of the air traffic controlling, and national airline, Drukair, are sceptical of DCA’s capacity to take over.

ATC is a service provided from the ground to aircraft flying in a tower’s designated airspace, or while on the ground. Information, such as approvals for landing or taking off, weather situation, and distance to other aircraft, among others, are provided.

Asked whether DCA is concerned by the scepticism, the agency’s director general, Phala Dorji said any scepticism is probably untrue. “Drukair and the IAF would never say such things.”

But he still added, “If at all this truly comes from them, then I’d have to express shock, knowing that we’ve trained and qualified air traffic controllers by ICAO standards.” The international civil aviation organisation (ICAO) is a UN agency that sets safety standards in international air transport.

The IAF has been in charge of civilian ATC at Paro airport ever since scheduled flight operations began in 1983. Currently, DCA has four trained air traffic controllers, but play an observer role in the control tower.

DCA has proposed to the communications ministry that it take over ATC duties at Paro airport. Dialogue is currently underway with GoI, according to DCA. A decision on the issue is expected shortly.

Phala Dorji explained the rationale behind the proposal. He said that as Paro airport is a civilian airport, the department is working towards transitioning service providers to civilian agencies.

“Given the small amount of traffic at Paro airport, it won’t be a difficult task for DCA controllers,” he pointed out.

He attributed Paro airport’s safety record to the IAF controllers, and said DCA was appreciative of their service.

The issue of Paro ATC was also highlighted during the communication ministry’s midterm review, last year.

Drukair CEO, Tandin Jamso, said he had no comment, as Drukair was not even aware of the ATC issue. He said Drukair had also not commented on the issue prior.

IAF also did not comment.

By Gyaltsen K Dorji

Friday, 12 August 2011

RUB to introduce programme in collaboration with Columbia

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Royal University of Bhutan (RUB), will collaborate with Earth Institute at the Columbia University in the US to introduce a Master’s Programme in Development Practices in the country. The programme will provide Bhutanese graduates the opportunity to pursue a two year degree course in sustainable development like poverty, health, resource optimisation, climate change and rural development.

They will also have the opportunity to exchange ideas on sustainable development with students from member countries of the consortium.

RUB is the 24th member under the Earth Institute’s consortium of 23 universities.

A working group will be organised with representatives from RUB and the Earth Institute to review the curriculum and complete the process.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Paro International Airport - The First Choice Among Bhutan Tour Operators

Located at a whopping 7300 feet above sea level, Paro International Airport is perhaps one of the most elevated airports in the world. It is the first as well as the only aviation landing choice for Bhutan tour operators and visitors alike planning a Bhutan travel experience. Why you ask? Because Paro International Airport is Bhutan's only Airport. Surprised? We were too, but not for too long. After all, Bhutan is a really tiny kingdom and isn't known as the Land of Happiness for nothing.

Paro Airport and the Ultimate Bhutan Travel Experience

Your Bhutan travel experience, which provides you an unprecedented opportunity in cultural immersion not to mention an environment that is virtually pollution-free, commences even before you land at the Paro International Airport. On a bright sunny day, you will be serenaded by breath-taking views of the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayan mountain range of which Mt. Everest is an intrinsic part. The Bhutan tour operator with whom you have signed up to experience the real Bhutan in all its majestic and magnificent glory, will provide you precise aireal landmarks and tell you what to look for from your airplane window. The views may seem a tad intimidating but not to worry. Your flight crew has thousands of hours of flight experience and only the most competent pilots are assigned the critical responsibility of piloting aircrafts into Bhutan as we will illustrate in a moment.

A Blessing for all Bhutan tour Operators

Situated in a deep valley on the banks of the Paro river only six km from the city of Paro, which makes it very easy for all the Bhutan tour operators to meet and greet you punctually, the Airport is very sate-of-the-art with a runway that is 6445 feet long and paved with asphalt. The latest navigational gismos, radar technologies and CAT-3 systems not withstanding, the Bhutan government doesn't believe in taking any chances when it comes time to safeguard your safety. Flights are allowed to land only during the day when visibility is excellent. Flights are diverted to neighboring Airports in India at a moment's notice if weather conditions change rapidly and suddenly. After all, the peaks that surround the Paro International Airport at 18,000 feet high! As of October 2009, there were only eight pilots certified to land at Paro International Airport according to a report published in Travel &Leisure Magazine by American Express. To date, the flight safety record of Druc Air, which flies into the airport daily, has been stellar.

The Welcome Mat from Bhutan tour Operators

Regardless of the time of the day or year you fly into Paro International Airport, your Bhutan tour operator will be there to welcome you. It is a small Airport with only one terminal and four gates so you will be easy to spot and aren't going to get lost. Paro International Airport isn't simply your gateway to Mt. Everest but also a meaningful connection, a launching pad for your wonderful Bhutan trip.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Bhutan - His Majesty and Queen-to-be visit Lungtenzampa

His Majesty the King and Queen-to-be Jetsun Pema visited Lungtenzampa Middle Secondary School yesterday. They watched a variety show especially dedicated to them. His Majesty the King and Queen-to-be Jetsun Pema are both alumni of Lungtenzampa.

As they walked hand in hand along the school campus, they were greeted by messages written by the students. They also gave autographs to the staff and students of Lungtenzampa.

At the end of the programme, students sang a song of commitment to His Majesty the King, the country and the people.

His Majesty then interacted with the students after the programme. He told the students to always dream and to work hard towards achieving their dreams.

His Majesty the King studied in Lungtenzampa from 1989 to 1993.

Queen-to-be Jetsun Pema studied in Lungtenzampa from 2001 till 2005.