It was about 12:30 pm, 13th October 2013, Wangchuck (Friend of mine at work) and I was readying to receive the ATR-42-500 aircraft which had gone to Bumthang at around 10:30 in the morning. I took the transit form and aircraft arrival/departure form from the rack and walked towards the ramp- commonly called as terminal. Sangay sir, a senior LAME (Licensed Aircraft maintenance Engineer) to which I was attached with was already at the terminal and was on his way back to the Hangar. He was busy on the call. I heard him say: “Was there was unusual cranking sound? Which engine is it...”
I walked behind him; I wasn’t sure if there was some problem with the aircraft but I was certain that it was delayed. I enquired him if the aircraft was grounded at Bumthang? And he said:
“We need to go to Bumthang, there is Starter generator problem and we need to replace with it. There is also VVIP tomorrow and the aircraft must be at Paro by any means”
In the midst of our conversation, Mindu sir who is very jolly and straight-forward person joined us. He briefed Wangchuck and me as to what we were going to need; that we get it all issued from the store. The maintenance supervisor was informed formally we were almost ready to start our journey to Bumthang airport by vehicle. But there was transportation problem; I mean there wasn’t a good vehicle! That was when I realized about the two choppers pledged by the PDP government during Campaigns. How much it would of help during such emergency cases? Finally after various calls to the bosses, it was confirmed that the Hilux of Mindu sir was to be taken on hire.
I took pack lunch that day but it reached home as it was. I gobble up some spoons of rice and aludam that was prepared for lunch and hurried with a coat in bag towards the hangar again to load Hilux with the equipment and components that were to take. By then it was almost 3pm when we started off our journey, perhaps the longest one ad-hoc; imagine crossing five Dzongkhags in one evening, make the aircraft takeoff the next day! The worst might was waiting for us. Even more worst was when Sangay sir took the driver’s seat. The road from Dochula till Pelela is too rough and tough while the road from Pelela to Yotongla till Bumthang is small; the minimum speed was at 70km/hr. and every time there was some bumps rings along the way I was scared to hell. The normal nine to ten hours journey was reached at seven hours. It was 11:07 pm when we reached Bathpalathang airport. No sooner did we reach there than the trouble shooting began, we replaced the starter generator which took almost three hours in lamp light and tested again which was Ok; the engine was starting fine. Relieved we headed to Rinchenling Hotel at around 2:30am and took our night halt.
Wangchuck and I were to return to Paro in flight for sure; but the passengers were almost full in the morning trip and there was talk of Load penalty; so we were told to take the evening flight on the VVIP’s return journey. But in the morning again on pilot’s consent, the plan was changed and two of us were called to board in the morning at 6:30 am flight. So excited were we for it was the first time to fly in the air. The air hostess welcomed us cordially with smile. I was excited to see the beautiful valleys from 20000 ft. above the ground. Unfortunately most of the views were clouded and the views weren’t as expected. Nevertheless getting the opportunity to fly for the first time itself was pretty much an experience and I would never forget the story behind my first flight in air.
Within 30 minutes, the airplane landed at the Paro international airport. So short was the journey; the seven long torturous journeys by a normal vehicle is reached within 30 minutes thanks to Wright brothers; technology is a wonder indeed I thought.