At 14:01 hours, a siren goes off at the Yonphula domestic airport in Kanglung. There is a smoke at the far end of the runway. 

As the fire engine prepares to head towards the site, cries are heard from the other side. This is at the mock drill conducted at the airport on June 22, 2018. 

The pseudo situation is that an aircraft during landing has skid towards the right side of the runway 30. There are 15 passengers onboard including five crewmembers. 

The first patient is evacuated after four minutes following the siren. Of the passengers onboard, two is dead while another two are in critical condition. The rest escape with minor injury. 

 The whole drill takes around 20 minutes to complete.

Following similar drills at the Paro and Bumthang airports, this is the first time it was conducted at Yonphula. 

Airport manager, Tshueltrim Drakpa, said the drill was conducted successfully. He said that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) mandates emergency response drills are conducted on a regular basis at airports for the safety of the airlines and the passengers. 

He said that given the distance between the airport and the dzongkhag headquarters, reaching manpower and other resources could be challenging during events of actual emergencies. “However, with support from the dzongdag and the local leaders, we could manage to utilise the resources from Kanglung area this time.”

While participants including health, police, DeSuup, Drukair and Department of Air Transport (DoAT) officials among others said the drill was successful, they said lack of manpower could be challenging during real emergencies. 

Tshueltrim Drakpa said that to equip stakeholders handle emergencies situations better in the future, similar drills would be conducted annually. “We have decided that the stakeholders would meet for a table-top every six months to plan emergency responses and other necessary activities.”  

Meanwhile, located at an altitude of 2,539 metres above sea level, dense fog and heavy winds make Yonphula domestic airport one of the most challenging airports in the country.  

Running at 1,460 metres, the airport allows only one-way takeoffs and landing. The flights enter and leave the airport from runway 12 located at the north of the airport. 

Similar emergency drill will be conducted at the Gelephu domestic next.

Younten Tshedup | Yonphula