MoIC working on new aviation guidelines to avoid such cases

Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority to ask Druk Air for report on deplaning of patient

The recent deplaning of a medical patient Tashi Tshering over smell concerns by Druk Air will not end at a few press releases.

The Minister for Information and Communication (MoIC) Lyonpo D.N Dhungyel said that the Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) under the ministry has already started work on guidelines to handle such situations in the future.

The Minister said that the guidelines would be required for the future if such issues came up again. He said apart from airlines, the government is starting helicopter services and there too pilots may refuse to fly with certain patients.

“This will not work and there should be distinct rules and guidelines in place for such situations,” said the minister.

Coincidentally, even before the incident occurred the Ministry had already sent the ‘Civil Aviation Act’ to the Parliament where it will be tabled for discussion in the upcoming winter session.

Given the strong public reaction generated by the incident the Parliamentarians are expected to bring up the issue while discussing the Act and if the Act addresses such situations.

The minister said, “Given the recent incident, whether the Act addresses such concerns or not, we will definitely come up with the rules and guidelines on such issues.”

The minister said that even though he was not in Thimphu, on the very first day of the incident he had asked for information on the issue, and the Department of Air Transport had submitted to him a handwritten and signed letter by the captain saying the patient was not fit to fly.

He said the same note of the captain was also circulated among the cabinet members for information.

The BCAA is also writing to Druk Air to submit an incident occurrence report to the authority on the issue.

The BCAA after doing its own review of the incident will then in turn submit his report to the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC).

BCAA is an autonomous agency to look after the regulation of all airline and aviation issues and comes under the broad purview of the MoIC.

Its Director Wangdi Gyaltshen who himself just got back from a visit to Delhi said that he is already in the process of looking at the various BCAA rules and regulations on the issue.

The Director expressed his condolences that the patient has passed away in Bangkok. The Director has been following the issue abroad on the social media and news media but he said he would like to have an official report on the issue by Druk Air.

He said that what next steps BCAA would take would depend on the report submitted by Druk Air.

However, the Director said that given his look at the rules so far he has found that the pilot has the discretion if there is any threat to the safety of the aircraft.

“I would like to believe that the captain has analyzed the situation and in aviation one is not supposed to take chances and once the aircraft door is closed then the situation might get aggravated as some passengers could panic and do all sorts of things,” he said.

The Director said that this was a management issue also but at the same time it may not be practical to check patients physically at the airport.

The BCAA at the moment has no plans to talk to the family to get their version of events.

The Director said that being a Buddhist country with the concept of compassion if it had only Bhutanese passengers then there would have been no problem and they would have not made objections. He said, however, since the plane also had a lot tourists the patient had been deplaned after some of them made an issue.

The BCAA will conduct a normal review and depending on the Druk Air report will see if any investigation is required.

The Druk Air acting MD Rinzin Dorji said that they were yet to get the letter from BCAA but he said their report would be similar to the one they already shared in the press release.

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