Radar outage results in traffic chaos at TIA

Kathmandu, January 1

The outage of Enroute-radar installed on Bhattedanda for nearly a week is causing problems in the smooth flow of air traffic at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA).

According to senior air traffic controllers at TIA, the radar equipment received under grant aid from the government of Japan, and commissioned barely a year ago is currently unserviceable with the engineers at the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal struggling to resolve the problem. “We can’t say how long it will  take to solve the problem,” an engineer told The Himalayan Times this evening.

Earlier, in September, 2015, THT had reported under title ‘Japanese grant radars to cost CAAN dear’ where our investigation had revealed that unproven and substantially over-priced radars were being installed to improve air safety in Nepali airspace.

The doubts raised then have once again proven to be true as air trafficcontrollers struggle with the unscheduled outage and provide air traffic services to aircraft with a lower level of safety.

Also, in March 2018, the failure of the radar toprovide timely alert forreduced terrain clearanceto US-Bangla flight 211 had revealed that the air traffic surveillance system was not equipped with approach path monitor (APM) feature, a part of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)-specified minimum safe altitude warning (MSAW) safety net which is of much significance to Nepal that has a difficult terrain and numerous air crashes in the past that have been attributed to controlled flight into terrain.

Interestingly, a perusal of Japan’s official aeronautical information publication reveals that a majority of Japan’s airports are serviced with radar surveillance systems with APM feature, but the gift to Nepal was strangely sans this critical feature.

A senior air traffic controller at TIA said that apart from the impaired performance of the radars that cause repeated nuisance to minimum safe altitude warning alerts for aircraft in the vicinity of the aerodrome, its uniqueness is causing problems in timely implementation of  the ICAO specified upgrade to ATC infrastructure called aviation system block upgrades that provide for automatic traffic synchronisation of flight data with adjoining airspace belonging to India and China who have employed commercially available systems from proven western suppliers.

According to officials at the Tribhuvan International Airport, the recent monopulse radars provided by NEC Corporation of Japan are nowhere in operation in Japan and therefore their reliability is clearly suspect. “Why has CAAN chosen to be a willing guinea pig for a private Japanese company’s product launch is any body’s guess,” a senior pilot with a private domestic airline company said.

Clearly the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal’s practice reeks of double standards where on one hand tender notices for procurement of goods insist on established credentials for the supplier in terms of  the manufacturer having supplied to five or more international airports in different countries, the philosophy absurdly goes kaput for Japanese grants in aviation, a source at CAAN revealed.

According to the source, lack of Japanese companies’ exposure to supplying competitively to the international ATC equipment market has resulted in long standing deficiencies such as inadequate technical documentation for operations and maintenance, and maintenance support.

“This oversight by CAAN is compelling it to seek proprietary support from the manufacturer at monopolistic pricing, in contravention to the public procurement regulations for an unproven product,” the source further added.