Nepal | May 29, 2020

GBIA unlikely to become operational within a year

Rajan Pokhrel
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Gautam Buddha International Airport under construicture

The under-construction Gautam Buddha International Airport is seen on this picture taken on June 19, 2016. Lack of construction material has been affected the construction of the airport, which would be an alternative to the only international airport, the Tribhuvan International Airport. Photo: Shree Ram Sigdel/ THT

Kathmandu, November 20

Given the mess in air navigation service provided by Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, it is highly improbable that Gautam Buddha International Airport, a national pride project in Bhairahawa, will see commercial operations on January 1, 2018.

Strangely, the CAAN management cites acute shortage of electronic engineers in its maintenance workforce for the dismal state of critical radio navigation equipment, and yet aspires to make GBIA operational in a year from now, according to officials.

“Typically, it takes over two years for a fresh engineering recruit to be trained in airport equipment and relevant International Civil Aviation Organisation norms before he/she can be ‘licenced’ with the upkeep of critical communication and navigation equipment,” a senior manager at GBIA said.

While the GBIA boasts of instrument landing system  an electronic landing aid that enables aircraft to land in low visibility  unfamiliar to CAAN technicians as Tribhuvan International Airport still lacks this equipment, how engineers alone will be able to operate it is inconceivable, according to him.

The fact that engineers are not posted at CAAN airports, except at TIA, has to do with discriminatory practice, whereby only former ATCs with limited objective training are allowed to be airport chiefs.

“Qualified engineers are therefore reluctant to take up a career with CAAN, especially when opportunities and facilities are available in the telecom sector or abroad,” a senior engineer with CAAN confided.

It seems, in the beginning, CAAN intends to operate GBIA under visual flight rules, which is not permissible for commercial jets as per the ICAO stipulations, an international airline station manager said.

Radar failure not investigated

KATHMANDU: The ensuing chaos in the aftermath of failure of TIA’s radar equipment during the Indian President’s recent visit not only highlighted the pathetic state of essential air traffic control services provided by a monopoly organisation, but also showed how prepared CAAN was for a VVIP visit.

This was never investigated by the regulatory unit of CAAN. Equipment like ILS and VOR/DME are routinely inspected for navigation accuracy.

“During such inspections, notifications to the aircraft crew prohibiting the use of affected equipment is provided via Notice to Airmen in advance,” an aviation expert said.

VOR/DMEs in Nepal are undergoing flight inspection, but, strangely, the TIA management deliberately misled and chose not to warn users while its equipment was being adjusted for over two hours, endangering flight safety for ‘efficiency’ and keeping the airport open.

A version of this article appears in print on November 21, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.

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