Nepal | July 09, 2020

Profligate CAAN has a way with expending

Rajan Pokhrel
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KATHMANDU: The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal recently called for an expression of interest for the modernisation of Nepali airspace and development of performance-based navigation, giving continuation to its profligate ways of spending away the earnings from its monopoly business practices, according to industry observers.

The EoI invitation by CAAN’s air traffic management department under the air navigation services directorate comes at a time when an ongoing air transport capacity enhancement project, which is to the tune of US$ 4.2 million, funded by the Asian Development Bank also includes the same task, as evident from the documents viewed by this daily, especially on national airspace modernisation and airspace design. “Without waiting for the ATCEP to submit its final report, CAAN’s decision to plunge headlong into another EoI has gotten industry insider heads spinning,” a senior CAAN executive admitted.

A senior air traffic controller told this daily that the country’s airspace, as is being managed today, last saw an overhaul during the installation of the radar at Tribhuvan International Airport in 1997-98 by the experts from the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau and has since only seen minor tweaking here and there. As the performance-based navigation, now a buzz word in aviation, which essentially refers to air navigation based primarily on global navigation satellite system, has long been familiar to the CAAN veterans who have run the Communication Navigation Surveillance/Air Traffic Management project since 1995, the project was a veritable windfall for a handful of individuals who not only benefited from numerous foreign trips, including to exotic locales like Fiji, for familiarisation, but also from goodies accompanying the numerous studies commissioned for feasibility of implementing GPS-based air routes and instrument approaches at different airports, a CAAN director disclosed.

“The expensive volumes of studies today adorn the ATM department archives that are gathering dust and constitute a standing testimony to the commitment, no matter what the cost, to learn more on an emerging topic by CAAN and its precursor — the Department of Civil Aviation,” he admitted.

In Nepali aviation circles, it is often stated that air traffic controllers are the CAAN’s forte, especially by numbers, where they have risen to all possible positions by sheer toil and performance, whether its aviation security and airport management or air space design, especially instrument flight procedure design.

According to a senior pilot, IFPD essentially involves designing and verifying the precise geometrical profiles that aircraft are required to follow for flying in non-visual or instrument conditions staying a safe distance from any obstacle or terrain.

“The CAAN experts, of course cannot be credited for the recently introduced Required Navigation Performance – Authorisation Required approach to TIA, as it’s a gift straight from Airbus,” he added.

Presently, apart from TIA, only a handful of other airports like Biratnagar, Bhairahawa, Nepalgunj and Simara allow for instrument flights and are accordingly equipped with airfield lighting systems and ground-based navigational aids like VHF omnidirectional radio range — distance measuring equipment. “Not only are these systems expensive to install, they are also expensive to operate and maintain in country like ours which has been reeling under acute power crisis,” another CAAN executive shared.

According to him, CAAN also boasts of a contingent of nearly 20 IFP designers trained in Singapore, Beijing and Toulouse at significant expenses in the last decade, but how many additional IFP designers would be added by CAAN’s expertise in the coming times needs to be looked out for.

Typically, an IFP designer is required to maintain his/her proficiency credentials by working at the concerned desk, but this is not the case as the foreign-trained ATCs find it better to move on to other greener pastures, leaving the beleaguered CAAN management to seek EoI for airspace design, something that its veteran designers could do easily, he claimed.

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