… the move has been welcomed by the two airlines as it will mean a larger apron and enhanced safety on the ground

Aviation: Bringing to an end an almost decade long process, the relocation of the Air Force Element (AFE) camp of the Indian Military Training Team (IMTRAT) at Paro international airport has been finalised.

A bilateral meeting between senior officials of the two governments finalised details of a two phase relocation of the AFE camp on Friday in Thimphu.

Information and communications secretary, Dasho Kinley Dorji said that to facilitate expansion of Paro international airport, the AFE camp will be relocated to an area located near to the new highway created on reclaimed land from the Pachu linking Bondey and Tshongdu.

The secretary also pointed out that to facilitate the construction of the second terminal building and expanded apron, so that the two are completed in time for a November 11 launch to commemorate the 60th Birth Anniversary of His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo, one half of the AFE camp will relocate in phase one.

He said that the launching of the second terminal by November 11 has been accorded top priority.

Those relocated in phase one will be temporarily housed in security quarters recently constructed by the Department of Air Transport (DAT). The meeting finalised that the phase one relocation will be completed in one month.

It was also finalised that the remaining half of the camp will relocate to the new area in one year, when the new AFE camp has been completed.

Once phase one of the relocation is completed and the land handed over to the DAT, expansion of the apron will begin. Capacity of the apron will be increased by three parking bays. This is expected to solve congestion issues when all aircraft are on the ground at the airport. The current apron capacity of five aircraft is exceeded with six aircraft, and until early this month, seven aircraft, operating out of Paro airport.

The two airlines have welcomed the news that the apron can be expanded.

National airline Drukair officiating CEO, Rinzin Dorji, said that he was happy to hear that the apron would finally be expanded by November. He said that when all aircraft are on the ground at Paro many difficulties were faced. He added that as long as the current number of aircraft operate at Paro, the expanded capacity of eight aircraft should be sufficient.

Tashi Air CEO, Phala Dorji said that in the current space there was a risk of a ground incident occurring with many service vehicles and equipment navigating in congested spaces when all aircraft were on the ground. He said that an expanded apron should reduce the risks and increase safety.

He added that the expanded apron would be satisfactory for the current fleets maintained by the two airlines.

Following the completion of phase two, a domestic terminal and car park will be constructed on the vacated land.

The Indian government is funding expansion of Paro international airport. It has committed Nu 680 million in principle for expansion of the airport in the current Plan.

The Indian government also funded expansion of the airport in the 10th Plan. It provided Nu 185 million for expansion works and another Nu 83.7 million to improve communications and navigation aid technology.

Gyalsten K Dorji