The current government formed by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) by a landslide victory in 2013, is keeping good on their word.
In the build up to the election, during the campaign period, the PDP had pledged to purchase two helicopters to make life easier for cut-off communities in regard to medical evacuations besides fire fighting and transportation of passengers and cargo.
Only a few days back, the cabinet decided to purchase two H130 helicopters for this very purpose. Each helicopter will cost the national exchequer Nu 226.8million or US$ 3.65million. And for the same, a letter of intent has been dispatched to Airbus officials.
The PDP government is targeting to kick off helicopter services by November to commemorate the 60th Birth Anniversary of the beloved fourth King His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck. By November 11, the government hopes to take delivery of the first craft. The second helicopter will be delivered by Airbus sometime mid next year.
The H130, formerly known as the Eurocopter, was found to be the most suitable for Bhutanese terrain and therefore for Bhutan. The craft, according to officials, is best suited for fire fighting, medical evacuations, and transportation of passengers and cargo.
Although four solicited companies had bid for the contract, the Bhutanese government selected European manufacturer Airbus from among other renowned companies including the American company Bell. Perhaps because the national airline Drukair has been an Airbus faithful, the preference may have played a role in the company’s selection.
However, the costs of the H130 helicopters is not inclusive of operation and maintenance, which means pilots and engineers are not included in the cost package. But the government is hopeful to continue negotiations on this aspect and seek an all inclusive package deal from Airbus. And if that doesn’t work out, officials said, the government may opt to look for operation and maintenance support elsewhere.
The cabinet decided on the helicopters after a two-month discussion.
The H130 is a light weight single engine helicopter that can seat up to one pilot and seven passengers, according to information on Airbus’ website.
The helicopter offers adjustable seating to accommodate one stretcher, two medical attendants and one additional seat, and is popular with air medical services as its cabin is capable of accommodating up to two stretchers and two attendants.
It is one of the quietest helicopters in its category with a shrouded tail rotor and a noise signature of seven decibels below International Civil Aviation Organization requirements.
The H130 is further equipped with a visual flight rules day-and-night navigation system that is associated with a global positioning system display.