Paro International airport is one of four airports in the Kingdom of Bhutan and the only international one which has caused it to gain the unofficial title “Bhutan International Airport.”
The airport is considered one of the most challenging in the world to land at surrounded by peaks as high as 5,500m, and less than two dozen pilots have received certification to land at the airport.
History of Paro International Airport
Paro International Airport was originally built as an airstrip in the Paro Valley used for on-call helicopter flights by the Indian Armed Forces on behalf of the Royal Government of Bhutan.
On April 5th, 1981, Bhutan formed its first airline, Drukair, by Royal Charter.
In 1983, Drukair scheduled its flights from Paro after deliveries of its first aircraft were complete. It had its flight 101 depart Paro to Kolkata. It returned the following day as flight 102. At that time, the airport had a runway, departure lounge, and two-room air-traffic-control building. Druk Air was in charge of the airport’s daily operations before the formation of the Department of Civil Aviation.
Location of Bhutan’s International airport
Interestingly the airport is located in Paro, rather than the capital of Thimpu. It is 6km from Paro and 54km from the capital city of Thimpu
It is deep in a valley 2,235 m (7,332 ft) above mean sea level and is surrounded by mountains as high as 5,500 m (18,000 ft).
How Many Runways Does Paro Airport Have?
\The airport was constructed with a runway 1,200 m (3,900 ft) in length, giving the Bhutanese government-specific requirements for aircraft choice to be operated from Paro.
In the beginning, the airport required an 18–20 seat STOL-capable aircraft with operating capabilities, which included a high service ceiling, a high rate of climb and excellent manoeuvrability. The aircraft’s primary requirement was that it must be capable of flying Kolkata – Paro – Kolkata, a 1,200 km round-trip, without refuelling, due to minimal infrastructure being available at Paro to support flights.
In 1990, the runway at Paro Airport was lengthened from 1,402 to 1,964 m (4,600 to 6,445 ft) and reinforced for heavier aircraft.
What Airlines fly to Bhutan International Airport?
Currently, the main airlines flying in and out of Bhutan International Airport are Drukair and Bhutan Airlines, with flights scheduled to Thailand, India, Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Indonesia, to name a few of the big ones.
Tashi Air, Bhutan’s first private airline, was started in December 2011 and operated charter flights out of the airport.
How Many Flights Can the Airport Handle per Day?
The airport is designed with the capacity to handle around 50 flights a day; however, in actuality, the number of flights each day is usually a lot lower than this.
In 2012, it was reported that 181,659 passengers used the airport. By 2018, this number had grown to 397,599, and the airport handled 6,761 flights.