Air Transport World

World's least-known jet airline. (Druk-Air, also known as Royal Bhutan Airlines) (Airlines) (Company Profile)

THIMPHU, BHUTAN-DRUK-AIR can lay claim to the tide of the world's least-known airline operating modern jet equipment. And with its single Bae 146, it is the only carrier with a I-aircraft fleet flying international scheduled services. Plenty more is distinctive about Royal Bhutan Airlines, a name that Druk-air sometimes uses to identify itself as the flag carrier of the Kingdom of Bhutan.

And much is distinctive about Bhutanor Druk Yul, as its inhabitants refer to it-which must be one of the world's least-known countries. Sandwiched between India and Tibet in the southern Himalayas, the mountainous nation about the size of Switzerland-emerged from a tong period of self-imposed isolation only in the 1960s. As a heritage, aU of Bhutan's 1.5 million people-airline staff, agricultural workers, government officials-still wear the national costume: For men, a long robe tied at the waist and pouched over the belt to form a pocket; for women, an ankle-length robe tied at the waist with a wide sash and fastened at the shoulders with silver brooches.

Although there was a short-lived irregular Indian airline operation in the late 1960s, Bhutan had no scheduled commercial air transport operations until 1983, when the newly formed, govemment-owned Druk-air put two Domier 228s into service. Half of the $2 million cost of one was paid by the United Nations, which was stepping up assistance in various forms to Bhutan.

The airline's head office was in the capital of Thimphu but the aircraft were based in Calcutta and were flown by Indian pilots and maintained by indian Airlines. They flew to Paro, still Bhutan's only airport, which is a 1 1/2-hr. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.