Sunday, October 20, 2019

The airport that not many pilots have enough level to land in Bhutan

Surrounded by high mountains, strong winds, short runways, Paro airport is among the most dangerous in the world. 

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About 54 km from the capital Thimphu, Paro Airport is located in a deep valley on the banks of the Paro Chhu River, west of Bhutan. The ridges of the Himalayas reach over 5,500 meters around the airport, making it one of the places where most difficult for aircraft to land in the world.
The airport that not many pilots have enough level to land in Bhutan
The only international Paro airport in four airports in Bhutan. There are two buildings, one is an air traffic control tower, the other is a place where passengers check-in and waiting rooms for departure. Photo: Stocks.
Strong winds in the valley often make the aircraft wobble when approaching this airport. The short runway requires experienced pilots and flexibility to control the aircraft. According to Forbes, by November 2018, there were 17 pilots trained enough to perform breathtaking landing at Paro airport. Previously, this figure was 8 pilots in 2011.

Planes can only arrive or leave this airport during the day. Because the runway completely out of sight of the pilot as they fly a 45-degree angle through the ridges, lowering quickly to land. At certain times, the plane's space under is almost close to the houses on the top of the mountain. A red-roofed house on a cliff is an important marker for the captain to determine the landing line.
The airport that not many pilots have enough level to land in Bhutan
The runway of Paro airport is shorter than conventional runways (about 3,000 m). Photo: Desmond Boylan / Reuters.
Previously, the original runway was 1,200 m long. Therefore, the Bhutanese government sets special standards for the type of aircraft that can operate at Paro airport. It must be a small 18-20 seat aircraft, with high maneuverability, acceleration, and rapid elevation.

By 1990, the runway was extended to 1,964 m and reinforced to accommodate heavier aircraft. On October 19, 2004, the first Airbus A319-100 landed at this airport.

Buddha Air became the first international airline to operate routes at Paro Airport in August 2010. Tashi Air, Bhutan's first private airline, was born in December 2011. By 2018, the airport has welcomed nearly 400,000 passengers and more than 6,700 flights. A new runway is built in parallel with the old one, allowing the airport to handle up to 50 flights per day.

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