The aircraft was damaged by a freak hailstorm over Guwahati, India, on April 16

Aviation: The national airline’s Airbus A319 that was damaged by a freak hailstorm over Guwahati, India, on April 16 will be flown back to Bhutan by this month’s end.

Drukair CEO Tandi Wangchuk said that the aircraft is currently undergoing mandatory maintenance in Singapore. “Damages caused by the hailstorm have been repaired,” he said, adding that the aircraft would be operational by the first week of August.

After the aircraft resumes its routine flight schedule, the other Airbus will be sent for mandatory maintenance in August, according to Drukair officials.

Tandi Wangchuk said that the mandatory maintenance will take one month. The aircraft will be flown in by the end of August following which all flights are expected to resume without disruption.

The Airbus A319 was flown to Singapore from Guwahati for repair and maintenance besides a mandatory maintenance that was due in August this year. Drukair officials said that the mandatory maintenance has to be carried out once every 12 years. The 12-year check includes a complete structural check where a detailed inspection on the aircraft is carried out for any damages, replacement of parts and other modifications.

In absence of the Airbus, Drukair has been maximising utilisation of its existing fleet. Currently, the airline’s two remaining Airbus jets fly directly on most long routes while its smaller 48-seater ATR aircraft flies on the shorter routes.

The Airbus remained grounded at Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi international airport in Guwahati for a few weeks until it was flown to Singapore. The Airbus was bound for Bangkok via Guwahati with 103 passengers onboard on April 16.

On approach to Guwahati, the pilots were circumnavigating thunderstorms when they flew into an unexpected hailstorm. The pilots managed to land the aircraft safely.

A damage assessment carried out by the airline found that the aircraft’s radome was punctured and rendered unserviceable. The radome is the structure that protects the aircraft’s radar housed in its nose.

One of the aircraft’s windshields also suffered a crack. The covers of the navigation lights situated on both wings were found to be broken while the tail navigation light did not work. Multiple dents were also found on the leading edges of both wings and the cowlings of both engines. The aircraft’s ice detector and static wicks were also damaged.

The aircraft is insured with Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan Ltd.

Kinga Dema