A320 Family aircraft, which demonstrate their efficiency and reliability on mainline routes around the world, also are showing their capability from challenging high-altitude airports - where excellent performance is a must.
Two operators that are taking advantage of the A320 Family's exceptional takeoff and climb characteristics are Bhutan national carrier Druk Air and China's Sichuan Airlines Co., Ltd.
Druk Air - which also is known as Royal Bhutan Airlines - has introduced two A319s as part of its fleet renewal and expansion programme. The A319s are powered by CFM56-5B engines and are configured in a two-class layout with 20 Business class and 94 Economy class seats.
The carrier operates out of Paro airport, Bhutan's only airfield, and one that presents challenging operating conditions. Paro is located deep in a valley at an elevation of 7,300 ft. above sea level, and is surrounded by mountains as high as 16,000 ft.
Prior to Druk Air's 2004 phase-in of the A319, Airbus successfully demonstrated the aircraft's capabilities during two days of testing in 2002. These evaluations showed the A319's capacity to operate safely in the mountainous environment, achieving significant payload advantage over the competing aircraft.
Druk Air operates services to destinations that include Bangkok, Calcutta, Kathmandu, Delhi, Dhaka and Yangon.
Sichuan Airlines also is operating A319s into high-altitude airports, having received the first of six aircraft on order in late 2004. The Chengdu-based carrier acquired the A319s for use on routes that link with the Jiuzhai Valley, Panzhihua, Lijiang and other high-altitude areas in west China, along with Lhasa in Tibet.
The relationship between Airbus and Sichuan Airlines dates back to 1995 when the carrier became the first A320 operator in the Chinese mainland. As of early 2005, it was operating a mixed A320 Family fleet of two A319s, 10 A320s and four A321s.