Hearing a thunderous roar of helicopters flying over my village was a rare opportunity in the past. As soon as we hear the thunderous roar, as kids, we would shout “Namdru-Namdru” and holding our palm over the forehead, would stare in the blank sky to catch the glimpse of a bird like chopper, flying towards Bumthang from the west or their reverse journey. When it is during the time when our villagers slog in their fields, they would pause for a while until the helicopter crosses the other hill in the east and they use to tell us that aeroplane is a big vehicle with both wings and tyres. When during the school days, on hearing the noise of the flying chopper overhead, we use to come out the class and shout with mispronounced term “Namdru Halecota” gazing up in the sky with full concentration and spontaneous delight. Hearing the story about aeroplane from our teacher adds more curiosity to see the plane and we use to make paper aeroplanes and play. It is once in a blue moon experience to see the helicopter flying over our villages and though of short duration, were the most fascinating and beautiful moments.
But, henceforth the villagers and school children of my village would hear the regular thunder from the sky above them. Indeed, they are already experiencing constant loud noises and soon, they would get accustomed to it with the commencement of Domestic Air Service, connecting the eastern and central Bhutan with Paro International Airport, whose maiden flights are scheduled on 17th December, coinciding with the historic National Day. This would instil in them, a curiosity to see the aeroplanes at near sight and of course to get into it and fly over the mountains and hills like birds.
|Paro International Airport|
Years ago, when my fellow villagers hear that some people known to them are travelling abroad, they use to get mesmerized and would say that it might be a euphoric experience to get in the stomach of white bird. Then they use to advice me to study well so that I can also avail such an opportunity to fly in an aeroplane. It was indeed encouraging. For me, I along with fellow captains of our school got an opportunity to visit the Paro International Airport to see the landing and takeoff of the jet planes back in 2007. We also got inside the magnificent aircraft and interacted with the pilots and the crewmembers. Apart from that, flying in the air is still a dream for me though I study in India, away from home.
|Drukair Landing on Bathpalathang Airport|
The construction of domestic airports at Bathpalathang in Bumthang and maintenance of Yongphu La airport were commenced in 2009 and 2010. Since then, many Bhutanese who could not afford to travel abroad with an enthralling tour over the mighty Himalayas with image of Mount Everest too close to their eyes might have dreamt of travelling by air within our own land crossing the beautiful passes of Dochu la, Pele la, Thrumshing La etc in a short span of time.
After several delays and postponement of the scheduled date for inaugural of airports for maiden flights, test flights were conducted by Department of Civil Aviation at both the Domestic Airports of Bathpalathang in Bumthang and Yongphu La in Tashigang on 4th September 2011. Subsequently, Tashi Air’s Bhutan Airlines and Drukair had proven their test flights successfully. The third domestic airport at Gelephu in the south is under construction. It is a great milestone since the establishment of country’s first airlines in 1983, and it is an indication that our country is developing steadily with easy mode of transport and communication, thus bridging the gaps between east and west.
But, with the sky-high fares, travelling by air would remain as an elusive dream for many Bhutanese. A one way trip from Paro to Bumthang would cost US$ 170 and to Yongphula US$ 215 by Drukair and that of Tashi Air would cost US$ 250 and US$ 350 respectively. Many Bhutanese peasants may not know the equivalent ngultrum that they have to pay. Our people are no tourist with pocket full of dollars, but they are mostly simple peasants who toil day and night in the field to earn a few thousand Ngultrums per annum, and many civil servants might be earning some 10 to 15 thousands per month.
Therefore, with such fares, the service would hardly benefit the general public and average civil servants. Considering the cost of operation and safety of travel, the fares might be reasonable for the operators but for our people, unless we are bureaucrats of highest position and business tycoons or heavy contractors, our dream of travelling by plane would remain as it is, just like hearing only the regular thunderous roars, without real sight of the dragon.