Country Listing

Bhutan Table of Contents


Civil Aviation


Paro, the air gateway to Bhutan and a major district seat
Courtesy Ann Kinney

The national air carrier of Bhutan was established in 1981 as Royal Bhutan Airlines, known as Druk-Air. Thrice-weekly, ninetyminute service between Paro and Calcutta was inaugurated in 1983 using a Dornier 228-200 twenty-seat airplane purchased from West Germany. A second Dornier was later added, increasing round-trips between Paro and Calcutta to five weekly during the busy spring and fall tourist seasons. By 1991 Druk-Air operated international flights to Bangkok, Calcutta, New Delhi, Dhaka, and Kathmandu. In November 1988, Druk-Air began using a four-engine, eighty-seat British Aerospace BAe 146-100 airplane for its five flights weekly: two from Bangkok and Dhaka, two from New Delhi and Kathmandu, and one from Calcutta. The cabin crew was trained by Thai Airways. By 1989 the two Dornier aircraft had been taken out of service. As Druk-Air flights increased, so did the number of passengers. In 1983 some 2,800 passengers were carried, and by 1987, the latest year for which statistics were reported by the government, 8,700 passengers were carried.

Travelers arriving at the one-story international terminal in Paro--the only airport with a permanent-surface runway--were transported by minibus to Thimphu. The Paro airport had its runway extended from 1,500 meters to 2,000 meters in 1988 and was further improved with a new hangar and an extended runway in 1990. There was a small, paved-runway airport at Yonphula, Tashigang District but it was seldom used. Thimphu was served by air only by helicopter, but helipads were available throughout the country.

Aviation in Bhutan in the 1980s and early 1990s was regulated by the Department of Civil Aviation and Transport. Under the Ministry of Communications, the department provided weather data and air traffic controllers. Druk-Air, although government owned, was a separate entity from the regulatory department.

Data as of September 1991