Aviation: The Royal Bhutan Helicopter Services ltd (RBHS) will be established on August 10.
The RBHS, a 100 percent state owned enterprise headed by a CEO and board, will be based at Paro international airport.
Airbus Helicopters will be delivering the first H130 chopper on November 4. The second one will be delivered either towards the end of May or first week of June, the helicopter board’s chairman, Kinzang Wangdi said.
The government is paying Nu 459.9 million (M) or USD 7.3M for the two helicopters. Each helicopter is costing the government Nu 226.8M or USD 3.65M.
Kinzang Wangdi pointed out that a concession of USD 559,600 had been obtained following negotiations.
The government’s equity in the helicopter services is Nu 600 million.
The helicopter board has also hired one Airbus pilot and one Airbus type rating instructor for a period of two years. A type rating instructor provides additional training to helicopter pilots if they have not flown the H130.
The two will be used to train Bhutanese pilots. The board is currently searching for Bhutanese helicopter pilots.
The board is also yet to acquire helicopter engineers.
Work is also underway to come up with a logo for the company and colour for the helicopters. Local artists have been consulted and will submit proposals to the board.
Kinzang Wangdi pointed out that the Department of Air Transport is currently mapping out the available helipads in the country, identifying flight routes, and infrastructure that could pose a risk to helicopters in the country.
It was also pointed out that the helicopter will be equipped with a cable cutter system, which means that it will be able to slice through any cables that come in its way.
In May 1993, an Indian military helicopter crashed in Bhutan killing all eight on board after it was suspected of having hit a cable used for transporting timber.
While the helicopter service is being introduced primarily as a social mandate, Kinzang Wangdi said that if there is demand, the helicopters could be used for tourism. He added that a business plan would be developed.
The primary uses for the two helicopters will be for social causes like fire fighting, search and rescue, and medical evacuations, among others.
The helicopters would also be used to ferry ministers and government officials around the country when required. However, the government will be charged fees for such transportation purposes.
While not yet finalised, the board may reserve a certain number of hours for each minister to use the helicopters.
Having helicopters will mean a second mode of air transport is available in the country besides domestic air services offered by the two airlines.
On whether having ministers and officials travel by helicopter will take away business from fixed wing domestic air services, Kinzang Wangdi said that government officials would still use domestic air services if their travel plans coincided with the airlines’ schedule. “But in case of emergencies, when government officials need to go on short or ad hoc notice, then the chopper services will be used,” he said.
By Gyalsten K Dorji