Bhutan’s national airline Drukair has signed a firm order for an Airbus A319 equipped with Sharklet fuel-saving wingtip devices to complement its existing fleet of two A319s.
The order, announced at the Farnborough International Airshow 2012, follows a memorandum of understanding signed in February.
Landlocked and surrounded by a wall of the world’s tallest mountains, Bhutan is one of the world’s most pristine locations and one of the world’s most challenging destinations for air services.
At over 7,000 feet above sea level, landing at Drukair’s base at Paro Airport (IATA code PBH) is only possible using Visual Flight Rules (VFR) for approach. This means the crew can only fly by vision, which requires a high-performance, responsive aircraft.
“We are delighted to be ordering the Airbus A319 equipped with fuel-saving Sharklets,” says Dasho Sonam Tshering, Drukair’s chairman. “The addition of a third A319 will enable us to increase capacity and open up new direct routes and to welcome even more visitors to our landlocked country, where aviation really is our gateway to the world. Its economic importance cannot be overestimated.”
The A319 with Sharklets will allow Drukair to expand services on existing routes and adding new routes to international tourist hubs such as Singapore and Hong Kong.
“The A319’s unrivalled performance means it is the largest aircraft that operates from the most challenging airports where other comparable aircraft are unable to do so,” says John Leahy, Airbus’ chief operating officer, customers.
Sharklets have been specially designed for the A320 family to reduce fuel burn by up to an additional 3.5 per cent, corresponding to an annual reduction of around 700 tonnes of CO2 per aircraft. This is equivalent to the CO2 produced by around 200 cars annually, according to Airbus.
The wingtip devices also enhance the aircraft’s performance and range.
More than 8,500 Airbus A320-family aircraft have already been ordered and over 5,100 delivered to 365 customers and operators.