The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) said that it had begun doing homework to restructure Nepal’s airspace as four international airports were likely to be located within a 100-nautical-mile radius.
Caan said that the move was aimed at increasing efficiency and safety and facilitating aircraft movement that was certain to swell sharply in the near future.
Currently, 27 international airlines serve Kathmandu ’s Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), and Caan has projected a three-fold jump in the number of airlines when the proposed three new airports come online.
The government plans to construct three international airports in Bhairahawa, Pokhara and Nijgadh. Work to upgrade Gautam Buddha airport in Bhairahawa to an international airport is likely to begin by mid-October. Speaking at the 14th annual general meeting of the Nepal Air Traffic Controllers’ Association on Friday, Caan Director General Ratish Chandra Lal Suman said, “We have formed a taskforce to prepare a comprehensive report that will analyze and identify the needs for the enhancement of Nepal’s airspace.”
According to Suman, an American company has shown interest in helping Nepal to restructure its airspace. However, he said that it was not clear whether the company would provide financial or technical support. “After the taskforce submits its report, it will be presented to Caan’s board for its approval.”
The proposed restructuring of Nepal’s airspace is in line with plans to open more direct and shorter flight routes between India and Nepal and an international route named Himalaya 2.
The government has requested India to allow three more air entry points at Janakpur, Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj.
The prime ministers of the two countries have directed the concerned authorities to meet within six months to resolve the issue. The first meeting between Nepali and Indian experts is likely to be held in October and it will discuss a wide range of issues to open three additional entry-exit points.
Presently, the Simara route is the only route for aircraft flying into Nepal. It is used by almost all the airlines and has been suffering from air traffic congestion. Two other entry points, Kakkarbhitta and Nonim, have been specially designated for planes coming from Bhutan and China respectively. Nepal offers more than six exit points for aircraft. They are Bhairahawa, Biratnagar, Kakkarbhitta, Nepalgunj, Janakpur and Dhangadhi.
The Simara point will not be able to handle the increased air traffic even if one of the planned international airports were to come online.
As international airlines connecting Kathmandu use the Simara route which is the shortest, aircraft have to make their descent and ascent in Indian airspace during arrival and departure respectively.
As per the bilateral air service agreement between Nepal and India, aircraft entering Nepal are allowed to maintain an elevation of 21,000 ft. The provision is practical for making the final approach to TIA, but aircraft coming in to land at Nijgadh or Bhairahawa will have to make a spiral descent, or circle the sky.
Meanwhile, Caan has also moved forward to open the Trans-Himalaya 2 airspace ( Kathmandu -Bagdogra-Guwahati-Silchar-Imphal-Kunming), which is a potentially lucrative route for Nepal.
The planned Himalaya 2 airspace is safer, more economical and more efficient for flights between Europe-Middle East and Oriental Asia and will reduce congestion of westbound traffic flows across the Bay of Bengal.