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Bhutan: Civil Aviation
Country Study > Chapter 3 > The Economy > Transportation and Communications > Civil Aviation


The national air carrier of Bhutan was established in 1981 as Royal Bhutan Airlines, known as Druk-Air. Thrice-weekly, ninetyminute service between Paro and Calcutta was inaugurated in 1983 using a Dornier 228-200 twenty-seat airplane purchased from West Germany. A second Dornier was later added, increasing round-trips between Paro and Calcutta to five weekly during the busy spring and fall tourist seasons. By 1991 Druk-Air operated international flights to Bangkok, Calcutta, New Delhi, Dhaka, and Kathmandu. In November 1988, Druk-Air began using a four-engine, eighty-seat British Aerospace BAe 146-100 airplane for its five flights weekly: two from Bangkok and Dhaka, two from New Delhi and Kathmandu, and one from Calcutta. The cabin crew was trained by Thai Airways. By 1989 the two Dornier aircraft had been taken out of service. As Druk-Air flights increased, so did the number of passengers. In 1983 some 2,800 passengers were carried, and by 1987, the latest year for which statistics were reported by the government, 8,700 passengers were carried.

Travelers arriving at the one-story international terminal in Paro -- the only airport with a permanent-surface runway -- were transported by minibus to Thimphu. The Paro airport had its runway extended from 1,500 meters to 2,000 meters in 1988 and was further improved with a new hangar and an extended runway in 1990. There was a small, paved-runway airport at Yonphula, Tashigang District but it was seldom used. Thimphu was served by air only by helicopter, but helipads were available throughout the country.

Aviation in Bhutan in the 1980s and early 1990s was regulated by the Department of Civil Aviation and Transport. Under the Ministry of Communications, the department provided weather data and air traffic controllers. Druk-Air, although government owned, was a separate entity from the regulatory department.

Data as of September 1991

Last Updated: September 1991

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Bhutan was first published in 1991. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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