Full damage assessment to be carried out in Paro

Aviation: The national airline’s Airbus A319 that was damaged by a freak hailstorm over Guwahati on April 16 was in no real danger despite the extent of damages sustained.

The aircraft is currently still grounded at Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi international airport, Guwahati.

Flight KB-140 was bound for Bangkok via Guwahati with 103 passengers onboard.

On approaching Guwahati, the pilots were circumnavigating thunder storms when it flew into an unexpected hailstorm. The pilots safely landed the aircraft.

A damage assessment carried out by the airline found that the aircraft’s radome, situated in its nose, 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 has stopped working.

Leading edges of both wings and the cowlings of both engines suffered multiple dents.

The aircraft’s ice detector and static wicks were also damaged.

A retired senior pilot with several years of experience on the A319 said that the aircraft would have been in no danger based on this damage assessment, .

“The one item that could have limited the aircraft was the crack on the windscreen and there are procedures in the manual for this depending on which layer of the windscreen is cracked,” the retired pilot said. “The only likely limitation on that would have been with maximum speed,” the pilot added.

Efforts are currently underway to ship a spare windshield and a radome to Guwahati, the airline pointed out in a statement to this paper. “The engineering department is trying to source the two items at the earliest,” it was stated.

The spare windshield arrived yesterday in Paro while the radome is expected tomorrow. The parts will then be flown to Guwahati. Once the two parts are replaced, the aircraft will be ferried back to Paro airport for more detailed damage assessment.

Flight KB-140 was scheduled to land at 11:56am in Guwahati, where the weather was forecast to be light showers with good visibility. The Guwahati air traffic control tower gave Drukair permission to land. The aircraft encountered the hailstorm soon thereafter.

“The crew handled the situation very professionally and landed the plane with all 103 passengers safely at 12pm local time,” Drukair stated in its statement.

The total cost of the damages is yet to be ascertained.

A relief flight was arranged to transport 90 of the passengers who were bound for Bangkok from Paro, and 15 passengers boarding from Guwahati, the same day.

The airline’s schedule has also been disrupted with several flights requiring rescheduling.

Gyalsten K Dorji