Drukair, the flag carrier of the landlocked Eastern Himalayan mountain Kingdom of Bhutan, has signed a memorandum of understanding for an Airbus A319 fitted with fuel-saving Sharklets, to complement its existing fleet of two A319s.
The carrier operates all its inbound flights to one of the world’s most challenging airports, Paro Airport (PBH), which is surrounded by a tall wall of mountains rising to more than 18,000 feet and is located at an altitude of over 7,000 feet. Approaches are allowed by Visual Flight Rules (VFR) only.
This means Drukair’s crews can only fly by vision, which requires a high-performance, responsive aircraft. The Airbus A319 is the largest aircraft operating out of Paro Airport (which has the IATA code PBH).
“For any landlocked country, aviation is the gateway to the world and its economic importance cannot be overestimated,” said Dasho Sonam Tshering, chairman of Drukair. “The Airbus A319 is the largest aircraft flying to Bhutan, and it has allowed us to welcome even more visitors in comfort and style.”
Drukair will deploy the new aircraft to increase capacity on existing regional routes as well as to open up new services to Singapore and Hong Kong.
“The A319 offers unmatched performance helping it to be operated from the world’s most challenging airports where other comparable aircraft are unable to,” said John Leahy, Airbus chief operating officer, customers. “The added range and fuel efficiency of the A319 equipped with ‘Sharklets’ will help Drukair to expand to new markets and doing so in the most fuel-efficient way possible.”
Sharklets have been specially designed for the Airbus A320 family to reduce fuel burn by up to an additional 3.5 per cent, corresponding to an annual CO2 reduction of around 700 tonnes per aircraft.
This reduction is equivalent to the CO2 produced by around 200 cars annually, according to Airbus, which says the wing-tip devices will also enhance the aircraft’s performance.