Nepal | March 30, 2020

Lack of ILS localiser on northern side of TIA puts lives at risk

Pushpa Raj Acharya

Kathmandu, March 14

Could the installation of instrument landing system (ILS) localiser from the northern side of the single runway at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) have minimised the chances of the US-Bangla plane crash on Monday?

Aviation experts seem to think so.

“The ILS localiser is an important part of the aviation safety component, which the northern part of the runway lacks,” said an expert, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The localiser is a system of horizontal guidance in the instrument landing system, which is used to guide aircraft along the axis of the runway.

The Air Traffic Controller (ATC) has already clarified that the US-Bangla plane crash did not occur due to lack of visibility on the runway as the plane had attempted to land in the afternoon. The deadliest aviation accident in decades had claimed the lives of 51 people onboard and left 20 injured.

Realising the need to upgrade the safety of the country’s sole international airport, the government had signed a pact with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in August of 2016 for installation of the ILS localiser on the northern side of only runway at TIA.

However, the plan for installing the ILS localiser has been in limbo due to the delay in extension of the runway. To instal the ILS localiser on the northern side, the runway should be extended by at least 170 metres towards the southern part of the runway (towards Koteshwor).

Hence, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) had sought the assistance of Asian Development Bank (ADB) to extend the runway by at least 300 metres from the existing length. However, the Chinese contractor — Sangshi Construction — has not started the works, even though the contract was awarded in November last year.

“We have repeatedly asked the contractor to begin the works as we are under pressure to complete the extension works before January,” said Director General of CAAN, Sanjeev Gautam.

He further said that the runway extension work is expected to take at least 18 months to complete.

Earlier, CAAN had awarded the contract to a Spanish company named SANJOSE. However, the aviation authority terminated the contract with the company in 2016 as it failed to deliver.

Krishna Lamsal, who is looking into Improvement of Aviation Safety Project of JICA, said that installation of ILS localiser could begin from early next year even if only 170-metre extension of the runway is completed by the given time.

A localiser works as cooperation between the transmitting airport runway and the receiving cockpit instruments. However, an aircraft would not be able to make use of its ILS instruments if the runway lacks the localiser facility.

A version of this article appears in print on March 15, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.

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