Boeing Frontiers
April 2003
Volume 01, Issue 11
Top Stories Inside Quick Takes Site Tools
Commercial Airplanes

Bhutan test flights confirm 737 capabilities


Nestled high in the Himalayan mountains in the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan, Paro International Airport is possibly one of the most difficult airports in the world to fly in and out of, as it is 2,130 meters (7,000 feet) above sea level and surrounded by challenging valleys and 5,500- meter (18,000-foot) mountain peaks.

Located between Tibet to the north and India to the south, the Kingdom of Bhutan is roughly the size of Switzerland. The current population is approximately 750,000. Buddhism has been the predominant religion since the 7th century and is inculcated deep in daily life. The Bhutanese treasure their rich natural environment and ecosystem, which includes animals like the takin, snow leopard, golden langur, blue sheep and tiger. Bhutan is home to an estimated 770 species of birds and more than 5,500 species of plants.

Druk Air-Royal Bhutan Airlines, the national airline of Bhutan, operates two 72-passenger BAe146-100 jets from Paro to six cities in five countries. The carrier is looking to upgrade its fleet and extend its routes, so it's no wonder the country's government and Druk Air were eager to see how Boeing's Next-Generation 737 would perform.

Boeing pilots recently conducted numerous test flights for the customer using a 737-700 equipped with winglets. The trials included both engine-out takeoffs and engine-out landings.

"Our 11 demonstration flights over five days highlighted the capability of the airplane to effectively and safely operate in and out of Paro International Airport without any special maneuvers," said Miguel Santos, director of International Sales for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "Our pilots were very satisfied with the operation of the airplane."

Boeing designed the four newest 737 models (737-600/-700/-800/-900) to fly higher, faster and farther than earlier 737s and Airbus single-aisle airplanes. Their cruise speed is 885 kilometers per hour (550 mph), faster than the models of the A320 family.

The Next-Generation 737s also can fly at altitudes of 12,500 meters (41,000 feet), higher than competing jetliner models. Airlines around the world benefit from this capability by being able to fly above bad weather and the congested skies of densely populated areas. Flying higher also provides passengers smoother rides.


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