Monday, August 19, 2013

CAAN requests int’l airlines not to use wide body aircraft; CAAN, TIA inefficiency, corruption to airlock the country

Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has recommended the international airline operators to limit takeoff and landing weight of aircraft and find alternatives to wide-body aircraft till September 30.
The CAAN has officially informed all the 27 international carriers flying to Kathmandu to limit their aircraft to 196 tonnes to prevent further damage to the runway of Tribhuwan International Airport (TIA), the only international airport in the country.

The CAAN move will, however, not only airlock the land-locked Nepal hugely making dependent on Indian airports but also smells of huge corruption in the maintenance work of the runway.
Due to frequent reappearance of cracks and potholes, the TIA runway might not be able to accept heavy aircraft as it would only accelerate its already deteriorated condition, the authority said, adding that it is in dire need to be resurfaced before the peak tourist season starts – by September – as this month, the frequent reappearance of cracks and potholes on the runway has repeatedly forced them to temporarily close airport.
Though, CAAN claimed that it is not mandatory, it is most likely to affect almost half a dozen airlines, including Thai Airways, Korean Air, Air Asia, Dragon Air, Qatar Airways and Etihad Air which operate wide-body aircraft like Boeing 777 and Airbus 330 in the range of 260 tonnes, along with Turkish Airlines that is planning to start direct flights from Turkey to Kathmandu from September 2.
CAAN claimed it will come up with a permanent solution after Ayesa Ingenieria – a Spanish consultant – submits its TIA tarmac evaluation report that is due before September. The Spanish company will have a detailed study on cost, time and other technical aspects for renovating the runway.
As a narrow-body aircraft can accommodate less than 250 passengers, international airlines will not be able to cater to growing traffic hitting the tourist arrivals..
The ban, however the insiders claim, is a ploy to cover up irregularities at the the runway maintenance work. “The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) should take up the issue seriously,” he added.
Over the past few years, half a dozen airlines have added Kathmandu to their network, increasing passengers traffic and air movements. However, the TIA that has only one runway – that sees around 450 flights including domestic and international per day in peak season – has no space to construct a second runway.
The TIA operates only for 20 hours from 5.30 in the morning to midnight. The tourism entrepreneurs have been suggesting the TIA to maintain the potholes after the midnight after the airport closes not to disturb the scheduled flights take off and landing.
Since the airport that was constructed in 1966 was able to handle small aircraft used in those days, but there has been no detailed study at present of the load capacity of the TIA tarmac. Of the current 3,050 metres TIA airstrip, some 2,000 metres section was built in 1966 – for smaller aircraft like the DC-10 with up to 196 tonnes weight – and a remaining 1,050 metres section was added in 1975. In 2009, when the runway was renovated, there was a lots of hue and cry of corruption. The authorities scaled off blacktopping at several places a couple of months after, supporting the corruption blame. “The runway needs renovation as its too old and worn out,” according to an official with the airport authority.
But in 2011, Asia Development Bank (ADB) had agreed to provide loan to the civil aviation to modernise the airport.

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