Video: The tricky approach into Bhutan's Paro Airport

Paro Airport in Bhutan is tricky for pilots. Photo: Douglas J. McLaughlin via Wikimedia Commons.

Paro Airport in Bhutan is tricky for pilots. Photo: Douglas J. McLaughlin via Wikimedia Commons.

If you ever fly into Paro Airport in Bhutan, you better be ready for a wild ride. 

My Aviation Week colleague Jens Flottau recently wrote about Bhutan's only international airport, located at 7,350 feet in a valley surrounded by 15,000 foot mountains. Flottau got to ride in the jump seat of a Drukair Airbus A319, and he describes the experience.

There is no margin for error: The valley is so narrow that whenever an aircraft approaches for landing or is about to take off, the road along the airport fence is closed by police.

“You have to know the landmarks and you always have to have an escape plan,” says Sonam Tobgay, a senior training captain for Drukair.

Not just any pilots gets to fly into Paro, Flottau writes. 

Because Paro is such a challenging airport, only captains are allowed to fly into and out of it. And they, too, have to go through extra training before they are approved for line operations. There is a special simulator for training to become familiar with the conditions, followed by the so-called valley checks. Any new captain has to fly 30 sectors under supervision.

Be sure to watch his video taken from a cockpit jumpseat. 

There's also a companion Aviation Week piece about Drukair's business model, but unfortunately you must be a subscriber to read it. If you do subscribe, be sure to check it out. You can learn about the airline's unusual route network.