Drukair’s ATR42-500 has been further grounded until January 8, according to officials from the airlines.

The aircraft was grounded since December 29 following a technical glitch in one of the engines.

Officials say that a comprehensive inspection of the aircraft was conducted that included a borescope (visual inspection of aircraft engines where the area to be inspected is inaccessible by other means) inspection of engine number two.

Drukair CEO, Tandi Wangchuk, said that except for a bend on one of the impeller blades, the rest were normal. There are 32 blades on the engine.

He said that the engine manufacturer has given the clearance to operate the aircraft till the engine visit shop in Singapore for a detail engine inspection and repair, which is scheduled in the later part of the month.

Tandi Wangchuk said that the ATR is further grounded in order to replace the bolts that were damaged while accessing for borescope inspection. “An engineer from the manufacturer’s repair shop in Singapore is arriving tomorrow.”

The additional repair is expected to cost about USD 10,000.

As to when the domestic flights would resume, Tandi Wangchuk said that it would depend on how things would develop henceforth.

Until January 4, a total of 12 flights (Paro-Bumthang-Paro) and six flights (Paro-Yonphula-Paro) were cancelled following the grounding of the aircraft. Of the total six Paro-Yonphula-Paro flights, four flights were scheduled via Gelephu.

The CEO said that the maintenance of the aircraft as mandated by the manufacturer and approved by the Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority were all performed timely. “The last one was executed in January last year.”

The ATR was first grounded after the inter turbine temperature (ITT) in one of the engines was found to be higher than the other engine.

Airline officials said that although the parameters from an engineering perspective were within the limits, the pilots were not comfortable in operating the aircraft because of the difficult terrain.

Meanwhile, Drukair has requested the government to help the airlines in procuring a new ATR. The airline has proposed the government to finance about 70 percent of the total cost. The airline would bear the remaining cost.

“We are yet to hear from the government on this,” Tandi Wangchuk said. “Drukair is not able to finance a new ATR fully as we are purchasing a new Airbus.”

Younten Tshedup |  Trashigang