Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Bhutan’s Only Airport

February 20th, 2009 · No Comments


I’ve been fascinated by Bhutan ever since reading this 1999 New York Times piece, in which Peter de Jonge bears witness to the nation’s first day of television. The article includes one of the most immortal lines in all of magazine-dom:

History strongly suggests that few people will choose to spend eight hours a day knee deep in mud behind an ox if there’s an alternative.

It seems like things have been progressing a wee bit in Bhutan over the past decade. The World Bank just announced that it will help Druk Air, the kingdom’s only carrier, expand its operations. That shouldn’t too terribly hard, seeing as how Druk Air currently owns just two measly aircraft. But something will have to be done about Bhutan’s airport situation, which is even more dire. Paro International Airport is the alpha and omega of the nation’s aviation infrastructure, and it’s a beast to use; it’s located 7,300 feet above sea level, where the weather is less-than-ideal. As of early 2008, only eight pilots were deemed skilled enough to land there without slamming into the surrounding mountains. And I thought Dushanbe Airport was tough.

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