Drukair’s aircraft grounded for five more weeks

Drukair is currently awaiting a ferry clearance from Airbus to fly the aircraft to Singapore 

Aviation: The national airline’s Airbus A319 that was damaged by a freak hailstorm over Guwahati, India on April 16 will remain grounded for about four to five more weeks.

Drukair officials said the aircraft would be flown to Singapore for repair and maintenance besides a mandatory maintenance that is due in August this year. The mandatory maintenance has to be carried out once in 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.

“The repair works and the 12-year maintenance combined, it is anticipated that the aircraft will be back to service by June end,” a press release from Drukair states.

Currently, Drukair is maximising the utilisation of the existing fleet to the most extent possible. As the aircraft would be grounded for a longer duration, officials said that they are working on all fronts. For instance, on some days where load is less, the Singapore third frequency will be cancelled.

The airline’s two remaining Airbus jets will fly direct on most long routes while shorter routes will be serviced by its smaller 48-seater ATR aircraft.

Other airlines could also be used to fly some Drukair passengers.

“We regret the inconvenience caused to our customers as a result of the unfortunate incident,” the press release adds. “Drukair would like to reiterate that the safety of our customers and crew always remain a priority.”

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

Flight KB-140 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 physical 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 does 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.

Drukair officials said that the cost of the repair and maintenance would be borne through insurance claims. The aircraft is insured with Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan Ltd (RICBL).

Drukair’s CEO Tandi Wangchuk said that RIBCL is already working with reinsurers abroad on the formalities required. “The exact damage assessment in terms of cost will be done in Singapore,” he said.

Tandi Wangchuk said that representatives from the reinsurance company visited Guwahati to review the initial damage to the aircraft.

Drukair is currently awaiting the ferry clearance from the Airbus. A ferry clearance is the permission to fly the airplane for the purpose of returning an aircraft to a maintenance facility or delivering the aircraft from its place of manufacturer to its customer.

Drukair officials said that all the line components that had to be replaced as a result of the incident were completed. However, following a teleconference with Airbus on April 24, some more parts had to be replaced to qualify for a ferry clearance.

“This required us to reschedule our plans and conduct some more detailed defect analysis before we can ferry it,” the press release stated.

The initial plan to ferry the aircraft to Paro was ruled out. The aircraft will now be directly flown to Singapore for the necessary maintenance and repair.

Kinga Dema

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