Domestic Airports 8 January, 2010 - The Gelephu domestic airport will start operations from June 2011, according to the Mckinsey’s milestone plan for civil aviation endorsed by the government and not December 2010, as stated in the government executive order.
The master plan for Gelephu airport should be developed by June 2010 and by September this year, the department of civil aviation (DCA) should have acquired the land and paid compensation to land owners. This is according to the milestone plan, which was signed between the DCA the ministry of information and communications on December 9 last year.
“The milestone plan will precede the executive order,” said the DCA director general, Phala Dorji.
The Gelephu airport has provisions to be expanded into an international airport, said DCA officials. “We’re looking at having an instrument landing system (ILS) where flights can land at night, unlike Paro,” said the aerodrome officer with DCA, Sangay Wangdi. “To have that we need a huge amount of land.”
Sangay Wangdi said that the Indian airport authority team, who had earlier visited the area, had recommended 840 acres for an international airport.
The DCA is still working on networking routes between the domestic airports and the international airports in Guwahati and Bagdora in India. “It’s something new to us and we don’t want to rush,” said DCA’s director general. “This is because a domestic airport won’t have facilities like immigration and customs and no domestic airports are connected to international airports. You have to come to Paro for international flights.”
He said that Bhutan might have to use Guwahati’s and Bagdora’s facilities if it is to connect a domestic airport to an international airport. “It’s practiced in Europe but we can’t take it for granted that it’ll work here,” said Phapa Dorji. “So we’re still exploring, keeping in mind the legalities.”
Meanwhile, construction of the terminal building and repair work on the airstrip in Yonphula, Trashigang, will begin from January 25, said Phala Dorji. “There’s already an airstrip so what we need is power and water supply and a small terminal building,” he said. The Nu 11.2 mn project has been awarded to Kuenleg construction enterprise private limited, a firm based in Phuentsholing. The project is to be completed by May 2010.
Yonphula should be commissioned and operational by December 2010, according to the milestone plan.
In Bumthang, around 30 to 40 acres of land has been identified in Barpalathang for the domestic airport. While the master plan for this airport is ready, DCA officials said that cadastral survey and cost estimates are yet to be done. Swedavia, an international civil aviation Swedish consultancy firm, does each master plan, which takes about two months.
Officials said the airport in Bumthang would not displace as many people as in Gelephu, since more than 90 percent of the airport land is government owned. “But we might take about 20 to 30 decimal of private land in the southern side of the airport to divert the river,” said Sangay Wangdi.
The Bumthang airport, which will soon see the installation of meteorological equipment, would comprise of an airstrip of 1,200 m, an apron, a taxiway and a terminal building. By March this year, land should be acquired and demarcated and airport construction, tendered out according to the plan and operations, should begin by December.
DCA has come up with three small aircraft that could be used for domestic flights. They are the Dornier 228, which Druk Air first flew when it started, the Beechcraft 200 and the Pilatus PC-12. “The Dornier has a capacity of 13-19 passengers, while the other two can fly between seven to nine passengers at a time,” said the aerodrome officer, Sangay Wangdi.
The feasibility study on helicopter services was to be completed by December 2009, according to the executive order. Phala Dorji said that Bhutan already has a feasibility study on chopper services since 1992. “With the airports coming up, we decided to combine the helicopter and aircraft services,” he said. “Whoever expresses interest in providing aircraft services can also provide chopper services.”
By Sonam Pelden in Kuensel