Yonphula Airport to have test flight by June

The Yonphula domestic airport in the eastern district of Trashigang, closed since 2013 for realignment of its runway and compliance with international standards, is expected to re-open in June according to air transport officials.

“We are having a test flight by the first week of June and the certification of the runway will be done by Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority,” said airport manager, Tshueltrim Drakpa.

To meet international standards and enhance safety of passengers, the runway was extended by about 90 metres to 1,460 meters and also widened to 80 metres.

“Blacktopping of runway is almost completed but we are left with runway shoulder, an area immediately beyond the edge of the pavement, prepared to provide a transition between the pavement and the adjacent surface for aircraft running off the pavement,” said Tshueltrim Drakpa. “The minimum shoulder width for safe operation is 75 feet.”

Tshueltrim Drakpa said it took about two years to acquire budget for realigning the runway. The Nu. 19.98 million Project funded by Asian Development Bank was later revised to Nu 218 million, (THE FIGURES NEED CROSSCHECKING).

The airport manager said that extreme weather conditions affected timely completion. “The average temperature at the location is five degree Celsius but a minimum of seven degree Celsius is needed for blacktopping and sometimes in winter temperature drops to two degree Celsius,” he said.

Reopening of the airport would benefit not just local commuters but also tourists. Most tourists are not willing to visit the eastern region because of long drive and poor condition of the east-west highway, which is being widened. Whereas the flight time from Paro is about 30 minutes to Yonphula.

“There are many Bhutanese who are willing to fly to Trashigang to avoid the bumpy ride and also to save time,” an airport official said. The road distance from Thimphu to Trashigang is 550 kms and requires an overnight halt in Bumthang.

Yonphula domestic airport is the only airport in the country that will allow only one-way take off and landings. The flight will enter and leave the airport from the north.

Once the airport is opened Drukair is expected to resume flights to the eastern part of the country, which used to be thrice a week in the past.

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