|Paro International Airport|
|IATA: PBH – ICAO: VQPR|
|Operator||Department of Civil Aviation|
|Serves||Thimphu and Paro District|
|Hub for||Druk Air
|Elevation AMSL||2,235 m / 7,332 ft|
Paro Airport (IATA: PBH, ICAO: VQPR) is the only international airport of Bhutan. The airport is located 6 km (3.7 mi) from Paro in a deep valley on the bank of the river Paro Chhu. With surrounding peaks as high as 18,000 ft (5,500 m) it is considered one of the world's most challenging airports. As of October 2009, only eight pilots in the world were certified to land at the airport. Flights at Paro are allowed under visual meteorological conditions only and are restricted to daylight hours from sunrise to sunset.
In 1968, the Indian Border Roads Organisation built an airstrip in the Paro valley, which was initially utilised for on call helicopter operations by the Indian Armed Forces on behalf of Royal Government of Bhutan. Bhutan's first airline, Drukair, was established by Royal Charter on 5 April 1981.
Paro Airport is located deep in a valley 7,332 feet (2,235 m) above mean sea level and is surrounded by mountains as high as 18,000 feet (5,500 m). Initially, the airport was constructed with a runway 3,900 feet (1,200 m) in length, giving the Bhutanese government specific requirements for a choice of aircraft to be operated from Paro. They required an 18–20 seat STOL-capable aircraft with operating capabilities which included a high service ceiling, high rate of climb and high manoeuvrability. The major requirement for the aircraft was that it must be capable of flying Kolkata – Paro – Kolkata, a 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) round-trip, without refuelling; due to minimal infrastructure being available at Paro for this purpose. Three different aircraft types were considered after flight tests that had been conducted in India and Bhutan between 1978 and 1980; however, none was deemed suitable.
In mid-1981, the Indian government set up a committee to study its own requirements for a light transport aircraft. Based upon this study, the Bhutanese government ordered one Dornier 228-200 for delivery in January 1983, with the option for a second aircraft for delivery in late 1983. The first 18-seat Dornier 228-200 landed at Paro Airport on 14 January 1983, the exact time of landing, the number of passengers on board and even the direction the aircraft was parked on the airport apron being predetermined by the high lama of Paro Dzong.
Drukair inaugurated scheduled revenue flights from Paro on 11 February 1983, with Flight 101 departing Paro for Kolkata and returning the next day as Flight 102. At the time of service commencement, Paro Airport consisted of the runway, a two-room air traffic control building (with the ground floor acting as the check-in counter) and a departure lounge on the lawn. Prior to the establishment of the Department of Civil Aviation in January 1986, Drukair was responsible for the operation and maintenance of the Airport's infrastructure.
In 1990, the runway at Paro Airport was lengthened from 4,600 feet (1,400 m) to 6,445 feet (1,964 m) and reinforced for heavier aircraft. A hangar was also constructed for the aircraft, which was funded by the Indian government as part of the Paro Airport Development Project. On 21 November 1988, Drukair's first jet aircraft, an BAe 146-100, was delivered to Paro Airport. In 2003, Drukair was seeking a replacement for the BAe 146 and on 19 October 2004 the airline's first Airbus A319-100 arrived in Paro.
In 2012, it was reported that 181,659 passengers used the airport.
Airlines and destinations
Druk Air is the national flag carrier airline of Bhutan and has its base at Paro Airport. Buddha Air became the first international airline to operate charters to Paro in August 2010. Tashi Air is Bhutan's first private airline and was started in December 2011.
|Buddha Air||Charter: Kathmandu|
|Druk Air||Jakar, Trashigang (suspended), Bagdogra, Bangkok–Suvarnabhumi, Delhi, Dhaka, Gaya, Guwahati, Kathmandu, Kolkata, Mumbai, Singapore|
|Tashi Air||Jakar, Trashigang (both suspended), Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi, Kathmandu, Kolkata|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Paro Airport.|
- BBC World feature on landing at Paro Airport
- Airport information for VQPR at World Aero Data. Data current as of October 2006.