Bigger than Drukair’s A319, the Tashi Air aircraft will fly with a reduced payload
Aviation: There is no doubt among aviation professionals that Tashi Air’s Airbus A320 aircraft will be able to safely operate in and out of Paro airport.
In response to some public concerns on whether the A320, which will be the largest aircraft to be used in Bhutan, can be safely operated at Paro airport, Tashi Air CEO, David Young said he had no doubt that the A320 can operate from Paro with exactly the same margins of safety as the A319, which has been used at Paro since 2004.
The A320 is slightly longer and heavier than the A319. The length of the A320 is 37.57m compared to 33.84m of the A319. The A320 weighs around 42,000kg compared to 39,000kg of the A319.
David Young pointed out that, while the A320 is a longer and heavier aircraft, the increased size would be compensated for by reducing the payload to meet the same ‘restricted takeoff weight’ as the A319.
Aircraft are subjected to load penalties when operating at Paro, evident by the number of empty seats observed by passengers, despite being informed the flight is full.
A decrease in payload means carrying less than the maximum design takeoff weight or greatest weight the aircraft is designed to carry. This translates to decreasing the number of passengers and amount of cargo on board.
This has to occur, as airport elevation is one factor that determines performance of aircraft. A higher elevation means thinner air, which means less performance or carrying capacity of the aircraft. Other factors like temperature, wind strength, runway length, are also determining factors.
David Young pointed out that the exact takeoff weights would be determined by Airbus performance engineers at its headquarters in Toulouse, France. Preliminary performance figures for the A320 were provided by Airbus about two years ago and, since then, they have been approved by Small Planet Airlines, the Lithuanian company from which Tashi Air is leasing the A320 prior to lease signing. Its pilots will also be undergoing simulator training at the Airbus headquarters, said David Young.
He pointed out that the civil aviation authority of that country has also endorsed the lease.
“What many don’t realise is that when Drukair pilots undergo their regular simulator checks, they’re actually flying a simulated Airbus A320 and have reported no problems with that,” said David Young.
This will then be followed with training flights at Paro, where a minimum of six take offs and landings are carried out on the Paro airport runway, supervised by a department of civil aviation training captain, he also pointed out.
A current pilot, on condition of anonymity, also confirmed that the increased size of the A320 would not be a problem at Paro airport. The pilot said that the A321, which is significantly larger than the A320 could also possibly be able to operate at Paro, although with major load penalties.
International civil aviation organisation (ICAO) regional flight operations expert, Tahir H Siddiqui, also confirmed that there is no cause for public concern. He said that, as long as the A320 operates under similar technical requirements or operation specifications issued by the department of civil aviation and performance charts issued by the aircraft manufacturer, there is no cause for public concern.
He also pointed out that the wingspans of the two aircraft are identical, so there would be no maneuverability issues.
David Young said that Tashi Air is willing to clarify any further public concerns in a public and open arena.
The aircraft has been leased by Tashi Air for a period of six months. It is expected to arrive in Bhutan in early October.
By Gyalsten K Dorji