Helicopter to focus mainly on rescue, health and social needs

PM dedicates helicopter launch to 60th anniversary celebrations

Helicopter services have been introduced in Bhutan for the first time and it is a history in the making for the aviation sector in Bhutan. Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay launched the helicopter services in commemoration of the 60th Birth Anniversary of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

Royal Bhutan Helicopter Services (RBHS) was set-up in July under the directives from Royal Government of Bhutan (RGOB), primarily to address the social and development needs of the country. The services are expected to aid the public during emergencies, such as natural disasters resulting from flood, fire and earthquakes.

The chairman of the helicopter board, Kinzang Wangdi, said that the mandates of RBHS are to respond to distress calls even when a person is seriously ill and in need of immediate medical attention from any part of Bhutan. “From very remote areas, like Lunana, where evacuation through horseback or even in a road condition would mean a difference in the life and death of the person and also calls from critically injured person,” said Kinzang Wangdi.

He further added, “All of us still cringe at the memories of how we lost 6 young lives in flood several years ago because we did not have the means to save them, and we also sadly remember how we lost one of our national heritage, Wangduephodrang Dzong, to the ravages of the fire as we looked on helplessly,” he added.

RBHS would respond to containing and combating the natural disasters resulting from flood, fire, earthquakes. The standard operation procedure to respond to the medical evacuation and disaster calls has been drafted and was approved by the board.

RBHS also fly government officials overseas and also monitor developmental activities. “We very well know how timely intervention, or the lack of it, have played an integral part in the success of developmental activities that we implement across the country,” RBHS Chairman said.

The sustainability of the company would also hinge on being able to generate the income from the services provided, as RBHS would also be open to business when they are not required to fulfill the social development mandates.

RBHS is open to carrying private passengers or tourists on scenic Himalayan mountain flights. The chopper will also be used for transportation of cargos. He also pointed out that they look towards corporations, like Bhutan Telecom and BPC to be their primary clients in ferrying cargo.

Kinzang Wangdi also pointed out a few limitations and challenges faced by the company. “We see a lot of investment in human resources and capacity development to primarily ensuring the efficient delivery of services and safety, but we also take comfort in having collaboration with Airbus Helicopter Company as they bring lots of experience and expertise.”

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay while addressing the crowd said that Guru Rinpoche had prophesized that one day there will be flying iron birds in Bhutan, and that today comes in the form of Drukair aircrafts, in operation for the last 32 years, and now the helicopter.

Lyonchhen highlighted on the time difference between travelling on road and by air in a helicopter. He said, “The time taken by flight to Lhuentse was around one hour while if we travel through roads it would take two to three days, whereby the distance is reduced by 150km and the actual distance till Lhuentse is 489km.”

Lyonchhen also said that helicopter air service is important since Bhutan is a landlocked country with a mountainous terrain. He also pointed out that the space was limited to construct runways for fixed-wing Airbus, and so the helicopter service comes in handy.

Lyonchhen said he expects the highest international standards when it comes to comfort and safety from RBHS. On November 2, while the helicopter was undergoing a familiarization flight for its pilots to Lhuntse, Lyonchhen had hitched a ride as well. “After going through all different types of terrain, I can say that helicopter is in extremely good and safe hands. I can testify to their experience and ability,” Lyonchhen said

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