Chhimi Dema 

A flock of pigeon flying mid-air hit Drukair’s airbus 319 on August 13 while taking off for New Delhi. The flight was grounded and passengers flew off in another plane.

The airline replaced five fan blades of the airbus that were affected by the incident.

Fan blades are critical to producing the thrust that propels the plane forward, while also cooling and quietening the aircraft engine.

Drukair in an email response said: “The actual cost can be ascertained only after the damaged parts are inspected and repaired, if necessary.”

According to sources, it would cost the airline about USD 90,000 to replace a blade made of titanium.

The airline has sent the parts for inspection and repair to France.

Records with Drukair show that similar incidences were recorded in 2017, 2018, and 2021.

The airline said that the aircraft is so designed that bird strikes will not result in catastrophic damage and even if an engine fails. “The aircraft can fly and land with a single engine ensuring the safety of the passengers and crew.”

The maintenance on the seven-year-old aircraft, with the capacity to carry 85 to 90 passengers, was carried out on the same day.

The Department of Air Transport’s Director General, Karma Wangchuk,    said that the department has a wildlife hazard team monitoring the airport area.

“It is difficult to control birds in the air or on the ground because the airport is surrounded by paddy fields and villages,” said Karma Wangchuk.

When the birds fly around the villages, they hit or are likely to hit the planes, he said.

The department has put in place various measures to control wildlife from entering the airport.

Before the aircraft takes off, two ambulances and officials on bicycles are sent on the runway to scare away birds or other animals such as dogs.

Karma Wangchuk said that firecrackers and bird deterrent equipment are used to chase away birds.

The department last week held a meeting with the dzongdag and gups of the gewogs close to the airport and requested them to notify villages not to feed the birds.

The department is requesting for a budget to buy electric bikes to scare the birds.

Karma Wangchuk said that so long as people live around the airport vicinity there will be a threat from bird strikes.

On the ground, he said, the department is trying every measure to reduce encounters with wildlife.