A test of one’s patience

As the Government is exploring options to procure two helicopters, a private entrepreneur has been waiting for five years to begin private helicopter services in Bhutan

The introduction of helicopter services in the country especially for emergency medical purposes has saved several lives. On the other side, it has become a cab for highlanders living in Lunana.

As a landlocked country with rough terrain and the unfriendly monsoon and winter leading to roadblocks, the benefits of chopper services are huge. For this, the government is currently exploring to purchase of two helicopters in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance (MoF), Ministry of Information and Communication (MoIC), and Royal Bhutan Helicopter Services (RBHS).

While an official from the MoIC said that currently the RBHS in collaboration with MoF is discussing and exploring with various helicopter companies to procure two helicopters, Chencho, founder of Bhutan Heli, has been waiting for the last five years to begin private chopper services in the country.

With the government approving the entry of private helicopters and jet medical evacuation, it is not just Chencho who has submitted proposals to operate private chopper services.

According to the official from MoIC, the ministry has received two proposals from private individuals, while the Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) has received one proposal.

An official shared that of the three private operators, Chencho is the only one following up with the ministry while the ministry is yet to hear from the other two operators.

Speaking to Business Bhutan, Chencho said, “I have been following up for almost five years. Due to the pandemic, the work was hampered. however, I have now reached the final stage of the work, but still waiting for a direction from MoIC.”

He shared that he is ready to invest once he gets further directives from MoIC. “I am ready to invest with my partner once I get clear instructions and directives from the ministry.”

He added that the first phase was submitting applications to MoIC to operate private helicopters and the second phase presenting proposals to BCAA. The final stage is seeking approval from BCAA, where the operators will have to pay the fee and get ready for the documentation to purchase a helicopter.

Once he gets the go-ahead signal, Chencho plans to bring in high-performance helicopters either from France or Germany, as he does not want to compromise on security and safety issues.

Chencho also shared that if he gets the approvals soon, he will be able to bring in the helicopter by 2024. “We will also be able to create employment opportunities. And our services will be to all parts of Bhutan, which would also promote tourism,” he said.

Meanwhile, the official from MoIC said that it might take time to procure the helicopters as just exploring the markets takes four to six months.

He shared that the government is currently exploring and studying on what kind of helicopters they want to procure and when to procure them. He also added that it is a huge investment for the country.

The import of helicopters would also cause a huge dent in the national exchequer.

Sherab Dorji from Thimphu