Thursday, March 28, 2019

TIA to remain shut for 10 hours daily from Monday

Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) will remain shut for 10 hours per day from Monday for the biggest maintenance work of the runway since its construction almost five decades ago.
The construction work on the tarmac of the only international airport in the country will continue from 10 pm to 8 am everyday for 45 days, according to the TIA. The TIA spokesperson Pratap Babu Tiwari said that at least 15 per cent of the flights would be affected by the project. "Due to the maintenance, Cathay Dragon, China Southern, Malaysia Airlines, Jet Airways and Qatar Airways will have to reschedule their flights, as they currently operate flights between 10 pm and 8 am," he said, adding that the TIA has already given different time slots to conduct flights for those airlines until the maintenance completes.
According to TIA general manager Raj Kumar Chhetri, currently, TIA handles around 400 flights, including 100 international flights, every day. According to the international standard, runways of international airports should be refurbished with the use of new bitumen every 10 years. TIA’s runway was built in 1975. TIA, however, has never done that, he added.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has employed China’s state-owned enterprise China National Aero Technology International Engineering Corporation to complete the runway and taxiway rehabilitation work. It signed an agreement with the Chinese company on November 5, 2018. The ‘most critical project’ –  that has been planned at the airport till date – will cost Rs 3.78 billion. The construction company has already started collecting necessary materials to renovate The 3,050-metre-long dilapidated runway and taxiway.
In the first phase, the Chinese company will blacktop 3000m runway. The company will complete the work in 45 days, although the CAAN has given it a 70-day deadline. But it will take around 18 months to rehabilitate the taxiway. The project is scheduled to be completed on June 30.
A study conducted by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) in 2014 concluded that the runway at the country’s sole international airport was not strong enough to handle wide-body jets due to its ageing asphalt foundation, and distress is caused to the upper surface instantly when heavy planes land on it. Repeated occurrences of cracks on the runway have been affecting smooth operation of aircraft since 2011.
The congested TIA has handled 7.19 million passengers last year. There were a total of 129,511 flights over the Nepali skies – last year – of  which 74 per cent of them domestic flights.
Due to extreme pressure following frequent cracks in the pavement that have raised safety concerns, the TIA has been forced to improve the runway. For the last seven years, aircraft weighing more than 196 tonnes have been barred from TIA to prevent further damage to the runway. "Last monsoon, the runway has developed cracks more than 30 times," according to airlines.

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