‘Next helicopter will arrive by 21th July’
|Karma Yangzom, Thimphu
It is only into the sixth month of its operation but the lone helicopter in the country has already provided a commendable service to the people. From extinguishing wild fires to evacuating ailing patients from remote pockets to the capital, Royal Bhutan Helicopter Service Limited (RBHSL) is serving its purpose diligently.
According to the chief executive officer (CEO) of RBHSL, Chewang Gyeltshen, so far they have not failed in providing their services to the people despite being very new establishment in the country.
He said that they are entrusted with the responsibility of providing emergency services and charter services.
“Within emergency services, we provide medical evacuations (MEDEVEC), casualty evacuation (CASEVEC) and fire-fighting service. This is inline with the multi-mission capability of the helicopter H130,” said the CEO.
He said that the charter services are meant for transporting passengers and ferrying cargos and freights.
The health minister, Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk, said the helicopter service has helped them save many lives. He said 17 patients were air-lifted to Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) for treatment from various parts of the country in the month of November, December and January.
“Most of the patients brought to JDWNRH were under critical condition. The patients suffering from cardiac arrest , pregnancy complications, Tracheo-oesophageal fistula, accidents, head injury and chronic liver disease,” said the minister.
He added that another six patients were also air-lifted to JDWNRH last month.
The minister for agriculture and forestry, Lyonpo Yeshi Dorji, said the helicopter service played crucial role in containing forest fire in Sangaygang and Samazingkha in Thimphu that razed thousand acres of land.
“Had it not been for the helicopter service, forest fire at Chuzom could have swallowed more forest. Our forest officials and volunteer fire-fighters were fighting losing battle on the rough terrain and windy weather near Dongkola monastery until it came to our rescue,” said Lyonpo.
He mentioned that not only in Thimphu, even in Wangduephodrang and Haa, it has helped us to contain the wildfire.
In regard to the fees charged for hiring their service, the CEO said they charge based on the hourly utilization of the helicopter.
“With a seating configuration of six passengers and subject to helicopter performances, the fees are about Nu 175,000 (USD 2,500+5% surcharge) for locals and Nu 315,000 (USD 5,000+5% surcharge) for the tourists,” he said.
He mentioned that they also provide services to contain fires at the request of Department of Disaster Management (DDM) under the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs.
The CEO said another new helicopter will be arriving by the third week of July. “The new one will be similar to the existing helicopter.
“All the painting works have been completed and at the moment the Airbus Helicopters are fitting the equipments.
The helicopter is certified with a maximum seating configuration of six passengers and one pilot.
Meanwhile, RBHSL formally started its operation on 11th November last year coinciding the 60th birth anniversary of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo. The helicopter was procured the cost of USD 3.65 million.