Dismissing some rumors about the Bhutanese co-pilot ‘fainting,’ the Druk Air Managing Director, Tandi Wangchuk said that it was in fact the Bhutanese co-pilot or First Officer Tshering Penjor who landed the plane safely in Guwahati during a hail storm strike.
He said that happened because the Greek Pilot or the Pilot-in-Command’s side of the screen had cracked with the hailstorm strike and so there was no proper visibility for landing.
“A Thai friend of mine who was on the same flight sent me a message praising the safe landing of the plane and the arrangements made afterwards,” said the MD.
The MD also said that he would be having a meeting on Wednesday 20th April to decide whether the downed plane could fly after 24th April or not.
He said, “If the plane can fly then we hope to resume normal services after 24th April and if not then cancellations will start to happen from the 24th.”
Tour Operators will be crossing their fingers hoping that cancellations don’t happen as it will affect their tour operations and schedules.
The MD said that Druk Air had not done any cancellation so far on the major routes and it had adjusted the flights by rescheduling them.
Druk Air’s flight KB 140 flying from Paro to Bangkok on 16th April, with a stopover in Bagdora hit some rough weather and encountered big hailstorms that damaged its screen and nose.
Tandi said, “The weather on 16th April was very bad and the flight in fact got delayed in Paro airport by around 30 minutes. In Bagdora the Air Traffic Controller said that there was visibility with light showers and the plane was cleared to land but then it hit a patch of hailstorm.”
The incident seems to be a freak of nature as planes had landed just before the Druk Air plane and after it with no problems.
The MD said after landing the Pilots were shocked to see the extent of damage on the nose or ‘Radome’ of the plane which was pock marked with many big dents.
There were 115 passengers who were heading onto Bangkok and Druk Air immediately arranged for a relief flight in the form of the plane which had dropped the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Agra on the same day.
The passengers then reached Bangkok at around 9.30 pm at night. The flight had 25 passengers with transit flights and so Druk Air managed to get 16 of them on flights while the other nine were accommodated in hotels and given other flights.
The MD said that the screen and Radome had already arrived and it would be sent to Guwahati tomorrow.
Once the parts are fixed Druk Air would seek permission from Airbus to fly the plane without passengers back to Paro airport where the plane would undergo extensive testing for any other damages and repairs.
The check up cannot be done in Guwahati which lacks both adequate airport hangars and the various tools required.
After doing all the necessary checks Druk Air will relay the necessary information and seek permission from Airbus to fly the plane commercially again.
Meanwhile sectors like Bagdora and Calcutta will see some disruptions as the planes are flying directly to the destination. Kathmandu is being managed for now by the ATR propeller plan.