Tashi AirMuch awaited Bhutan’s second airline, Tashi Air will start its domestic air operations by October while they will start flying internationally by March 2012.
Tashi Air CEO David Young said that the private airline is expecting its domestic aircraft on 7 October. The private airline will operate a Swiss-built single propeller engine, the Pilatus PC-12. This aircraft, which can seat up to nine passengers, will not be brand new. But the CEO, who is a former Drukair pilot, pointed out that the aircraft had flown 800 hours in its three years of existence. “It’s virtually a new aircraft,” he said.
Tashi Air will initially employ foreign pilots, while its Bhutanese pilots are being trained, said David Young. It has also already employed a foreign chief engineer, and two Bhutanese engineers.
He pointed out that domestic operations are dependent on when Batpalathang airstrip in Bumthang is ready. He added that, if the airstrip is ready by October, Tashi Air domestic operations would begin that month.
Completion of Batpalathang airstrip continues to face hurdles, and has been delayed by nearly a year now. The airstrip continues to possess a rolling deadline, with the latest being this month.
Yonphula airstrip in Trashigang was only last weekend declared ready and open for air operations by civil aviation. David Young said Tashi Air had no concerns about the safety of Yonphula airstrip.
On economic sustainability of domestic market, David Young said that it is looking “thin”. The private airline has based this outlook on a survey it has conducted. But he pointed out that the airline’s opinion is that the domestic market will develop. He did not say how much passengers would be charged.
Tashi Air is planning to lease either an Airbus A319 or A320 for its international operations. While the private airline is looking to acquire an Airbus aircraft by March next year, David Young said it will depend on finding a suitable aircraft and obtaining necessary approvals.
He said that Tashi Air will fly to both Bangkok, Thailand, and New Delhi, India. He said that, while destinations beyond these two cities are being looked at, the two sectors will be enough to keep one aircraft “busy”. He said ticket prices could not be discussed.
Meanwhile, national airline Drukair is looking to commence test flights to Yonphula airstrip this month.