Peeling TIA pitch risks accidents

Kathmandu, July 31

Every monsoon, the poor condition of its runway and ‘weak standards' for maintenance procedure bring to fore the risks of accidents in the country's sole international airport - Tribhuvan International Airport.

Just today, a few flights were affected due to frequent closure of the only runway at TIA.

Prem Nath Thakur, spokesperson for TIA, informed that the runway had to be closed twice today due to appearance of cracks on the runway pitch. “The airport was closed for a total of around 30 minutes, and it affected inbound and outbound flights,” Thakur added.

Due to peeling of the pitch, a number of domestic and international flights were put on hold for more than half an hour which resulted in increased air traffic congestion.

As per Thakur, TIA had to be closed more than 30 times just this month due to cracks or peeling off of the pitch.

“The problem occurs every time a large aircraft lands.”

According to TIA officials, the runway problems have become more frequent after the operational hours of the TIA were extended from 18 hours to 21 hours from May 21.

“The frequent appearance of cracks on runway has heightened the chances of accidents at TIA,” said Raj Kumar Chhetri, general manager at TIA.

According to him, the TIA has been facing the problem of peeling off of its runway pitch since 2012. Therefore, the management has put in place a round-the-clock maintenance team to repair the runway whenever problems occur.

“Actually TIA runway needs to be totally reconstructed as the lifespan of the pitch has long expired,” Chhetri added.

The TIA pitch was originally designed only to handle small aircraft. Eventually it was used for narrow-body and wide-body aircraft with the extension of the length of the runway. Now, TIA caters to large planes like Airbus 330-200, and Boeing 777 and 737 models.

In April, CAAN had allocated Rs 100 million for improvement and maintenance of TIA runway. CAAN is working to expand the runway, with the selection of the contractors under way. As per CAAN officials, the contractor would need to complete the expansion of TIA runway by end of 2019.

Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari has already directed CAAN officials to do the necessary work to ensure that the runway expansion project is completed on time.