Druk Air: File Photo

Druk Air plane grounded for 6 days in Kathmandu due to bird hit

On the 14th of June 2023 a Druk Air flight to Delhi via Kathmandu encountered a bird hit while in Paro Airport.

However, the flight carried on as the system did not show any problems with the plane and so a review was done and they carried on.

However, after landing in Kathmandu Airport they did an inspection and they saw some engine blades were damaged. It was decided the plane will not fly on to Delhi due to safety concerns and so it was grounded in Kathmandu.

A spare Airbus was sent from Paro to pick up the passengers on the flight and they were taken to Delhi.

The Druk Air plane in Kathmandu was stuck there for another six days as an order had to be placed for the blades from USA and it took around six days for it to arrive.

Finally, the blade arrived after which the repairs were done and the plane could come back to Paro on 20th June.

The bird that hit the plane engine was a pigeon whose body was found on the ground.

The incident shows the safety threat posed to planes by flocks of pigeons that eat and nest near the airport.

A problem for the airport is that it is surrounded by paddy fields on both sides that the pigeon feeds on.

Many of the pigeons’ nest in the roof area of the Paro Dzong and they sometimes fly to Khangkhu from there and then to Chang Dungkha village and then Woochu.

It is when the pigeons fly from Chang Dungkha village to Woochu when the maximum risk is posed as planes take off and a hit can happen if there is a coincidence between the take off and the flight path of birds.

The bird hits are erratic as sometimes there is no hit for two to three years, but sometimes two hits can take place in a month or sometimes there can be two hits in two months one after the other.

The Paro airport has been a bit lucky that the birds are normally pigeons and there are no big birds nearby that can cause major damage.

However, apart from safety issues each hit to the engine can be very expensive as it costs well over USD 100,000 or Nu 8.2 million to replace a single blade on an Airbus.

This is not the first incident as there has been a history of incidents in Paro Airport and abroad of bird hits.

On 29 July 2011 Druk Air Airbus A319-100, flight KB-128 from Paro (Bhutan) to Bangkok (Thailand) with 106 passengers, was in the initial climb out of Paro when the aircraft flew through a flock of about 30 pigeons and ingested a number into the left hand engine (CFM56). The crew needed to shut the engine down and returned to Paro for a safe landing about 10 minutes after departure according to The Aviation Herald. The airline reported the engine received substantial damage to fan blades

On 30 January 2012 Drukair flight KB 204 was stranded at the Indra Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi after a bird hit while landing. The hit was only found during routine maintenance as the sensors did not indicate a hit.

On 18 March 2013 a bird strike on a Druk Air ATR while landing in Bumthang airport meant the plane had to be diverted back to assess for damages but luckily there were no damages.

In October 2016 a Bhutan Airlines flight was forced to abandon its landing at the Kathmandu airport after a goat ran onto to the runway and the landing had to be done again.

There were recorded bird hits by Druk Air in 2017, 2018 and 2021.

In September 2022 a Druk Air flight to Delhi while taking off from Paro airport was hit by a flock of pigeons and several blades were hit.

In the past the Civil Aviation Department has requested local villagers nearby to not feed the birds.

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