The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) is preparing to construct three new bays for aircraft parking at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA). As a part of the project, the authority will soon award a contract, under which a bay for parking international commercial flights will be built.
CAAN is also set to issue expression of interest to shortlist potential contractors to construct two bays for use by chartered flights. The plan to add bays in the country’s sole international airport has come after repeated problems of air traffic congestion that has also resulted in holding and diversion of international flights.
Huge flight congestion was faced by TIA in March this year when services were resumed after four days of airport blockage following the case of a Turkish Airlines’ aircraft skidding off the runway during landing. Air traffic movement witnessed historic congestion until May 3 after the devastating earthquake of April 25, with many international rescue operation and relief flights coming in.
TIA officials said that with the operation of domestic air service, helicopters and international commercial flights from the same location, the country’s single runway is being forced to operate beyond its capacity. They said that as it is not possible to expand the runway horizontally, they plan to issue a multi-year contract for bay construction and rehabilitation of the runway and taxiway too.
“The evaluation of financial and technical proposals submitted by bidders to construct a new bay is in the final stage,” said Birendra Prasad Shrestha, general manager of TIA. He said that the new bay will be constructed on the south side of Bay 1 of the international apron and it will be basically for commercial flights.
The first new bay is estimated to cost Rs 230 million, while the total cost of the two other bays for chartered aircraft would be around Rs 300 million. However, it would take at least two years to bring the planned three bays into operation. Normally, one bay accommodates 12 flights per day. This means TIA’s congestion is expected to improve slightly after the construction of three new bays.
As a result of congestion at TIA, the rescue operation by Indian Army helicopters are currently being carried out with Pokhara Airport as its main base. Similarly, Chinese aircraft arrive at TIA in the morning and then return to Kerung every day after completing their tasks.
TIA currently has only nine parking spaces for international commercial flights, cargo and chartered planes. This has resulted in congestion from time to time and forced aircraft to either remain on hold for hours at an end and even forced them to divert to nearby Indian airports. Other reasons of congestion include operation of the airport for only 18 hours a day, cases of aircraft being grounded for technical reasons and chartered flights that occupy parking space for a longer time than that by commercial flights.
Increased traffic and congestion was a big headache for TIA after the earthquake of April 25. To cope with the rush, TIA had even urged relief flights to unload their goods on the taxiway and take off at the earliest, according to Shrestha. The airport was also open round-the-clock for 10 days after April 25. According to him, the airport had remained open for 24 hours for the first time during the SAARC Summit in November last year.