For the maintenance of its runway, Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) will be shut down for 10 hours daily from April 1, 2019 (Chaitra 18) for almost four month.
As the preparation for the renovation work has already completed, the contractor has already installed necessary machines and brought necessary equipment to complete the task.
The airport will remain close from 10 pm to 8 am in the morning halting all the flight operations for accommodating the runway extension project. According to an estimate, it will take about 4 to five months to complete the overall upgrade.
“We have already discussed how to manage the night scheduled flights,” said Raj Kumar Chhetri, General Manager of TIA. For Lukla Flights, airlines are asked to use Ramechhap Airport and airlines have already booked tickets for Lukla from Ramechhap.
Constructed in 1975, this is the first time the runway of TIA is going to be upgraded. As the runway is going to improve, the airline companies are fully coordinating about the airport to be close for 10 hours daily.
While cracks and uneven surfaces can cause dangerous take-offs and landings, airline officials said they had been facing hours-long delays almost every day during the rainy season, frustrating travelers and causing financial distress among airlines.
Scores of flights have been diverted or delayed in recent years due to problems in the runway. Trouble mainly occurs during the rainy season. This monsoon, the runway has developed cracks more than 20 times, according to airline operators.
A study conducted by CAAN in 2014 had concluded that the runway at TIA 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.
When compared to the core part of the runway between 2006 and 2013, damage to the intermediate layers was caused by the operation of large jets like the Airbus A330 and Boeing 777.
“The airlines are also giving their views,” said GM Chhetri. As far as possible, the airport officials are also preparing to manage the flight numbers. GM Chhetri said that the airport officials are more concerned about managing the international flights.
China National Aero Technology International Engineering Corporation, Chinese Company, was awarded a charge of the runway rehabilitation project of TIA and extension of 300 meter runway is awarded to Nepali joint venture Kalika-Tundi. The agreement for runway restoration was signed on November 5, 2018 and agreement with Kalika on January 2019.
The construction company has already started collecting the necessary materials. CAN signed agreement with the Chinese construction company amounting NRs. 3.75 billion for the runway and taxiway rehabilitation project and Rs.1 billion with Kalika JV.
In the first phase, the company needs to blacktop the runway of 3000m. After completing the runway work, the work of Parking bay will also be started. The company has set a 45 days upgrade schedule while CAAN had set the period of 70 days of construction.
Although this is the tourism season, tourism entrepreneurs supported CAN. After upgrading TIA –the airport will be more secured and improve the quality of services.
“We will be issuing a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), a notice filed with an aviation authority to alert airlines about the temporary changes that are taking place at TIA, in a few days,” he said. “
Airport authorities moved to improve the runway due to extreme pressure following frequent cracks in the pavement that have raised safety concerns.
The contractor has already brought required logistics and construction materials in place.
For the last seven years, aircraft weighing more than 196 tones have been barred from TIA to prevent further damage to the runway.
In 2013, there were 1,000 operations of A330-300 aircraft, 955 of Boeing 777 and 452 of A330-200, and the numbers are expected to double in the next 20 years.
TIA recorded robust international passenger traffic growth in the first nine months of the year despite infrastructure bottlenecks.
According to TIA, 3.1 million travelers passed through the airport during the period January-September, up 12.51 percent year-on-year.
After the completion of extension of 300 meters safety area of the runway at the southern end by Kalika Construction, the airport will have safety space. If an aircraft making its takeoff roll from the northern end aborts takeoff, it will have room to stop on the runway.
Currently, there is no overrun area at the northern end of the runway. If a plane taking off from this end runs out of runway, it could plunge into a ravine 50-60 meters deep. For this reason, it was decided to lengthen the runway at the southern end.
Although this is a painful decision for hoteliers, they have to swell bitter pill hoping to see robust growth of 2 million tourists in 2020 after completion of work.
Sources: Various Newspapers