Paro International Airport (VQPR) in Bhutan is universally recognised as having the most challenging and potentially dangerous runway landing in the world. However, as the sole international airport in Bhutan, it remains a critical station. We’ve put together the information you need to plan a non-scheduled flight operation to Paro.
Passengers flying to this remote region may have to take something to steady their nerves. The small airport is located in the Himalayas is said to have the most difficult and dangerous take-offs and landings of any airport in the world. Paro Airport is 1.5 miles above sea level and surrounded by sharp peaks of up to 18,000ft. The terrain is so perilous that only eight pilots in the entire world are qualified to land there. The runway is just 6,500 feet long making it one of the few runways in the world that is shorter than the airport’s elevation above sea level. To land there, planes must weave through dozens of houses scattered across the mountainside, often coming with mere feet of clipping the roofs. That said, it remains an important station for connectivity to the country and an estimated 30,000 tourists use the remote airport each year. Here are some points to consider before planning a trip to Paro International Airport.
Permit Notice Period
The deadline for the application is ten days before arrival. Being a hugely challenging airport to fly into, there are only eight qualified pilots in the world who can navigate aircraft through the terrain. Therefore, it is pertinent to plan your mission to Paro well in advance.
Requirement of Navigator Pilot
As per standing instructions from DCA (Department of Civil Aviation) Bhutan, an approved navigator pilot (of which there are only eight) is needed to navigate the aircraft through the tricky Himalayan terrain and ensure a safe landing at Paro airport. The cost of hiring a navigator will include their travel and lodging cost to the airport they will be picked up from along with their daily stipends.
Paro International Airport is a Category ‘C’ day VFR operations. Flights are only allowed during the day, and only under certain meteorological conditions – this means incredibly strict light allowances in which the pilot must make judgements with a naked eye. Also, it’s advisable to operate in the early hours of the day to avoid gusty afternoon winds.
Fuel at Paro International Airport is available from only one vendor. Cash payment in USD is the only mode of payment accepted for fuel uplifts.
Bhutan Air Services is the only ground handling company at Paro International Airport. All requests and subsequent arrangements related to ground handling are made through the single window ops control centre.
Visa Prior Arrival
All crew and passengers must be in possession of valid Bhutanese visa prior to their arrival into Paro.
Transport and Hotel Arrangement
As it is located in a valley, there is a limited choice of hotels in the airport vicinity. There are some good options in the national capital Thimpu, about an hour’s drive from the airport. An advanced reservation with hotels is recommended. Also, due to limited movements at the airport, there are limited transportation options so you will need an agent to assist with hotel reservations and transport arrangements.