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TIA landing ban on heavy cargo planes

- SANGAM PRASAIN, KATHMANDU
TIA landing ban on heavy cargo planes

May 3, 2015-

The Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) has imposed restriction on the landings of heavy aircraft transporting humanitarian aid and chartered services to Nepal to prevent further damage to the five-decade-old runway. The decision means aircraft weighing more than 196 tonnes will not be permitted to land.   

The TIA handled a record 447 flight movements on Wednesday.

However, the scheduled international flights are permitted for operations with any type of aircraft.

A ‘notice to airmen’ was issued on Friday, the airport authority said on Saturday. Airport sources said that many countries, including the US and Canada, have been asking “to lift the restriction”. The US has planned to bring in relief materials on a Boeing 747 aircraft--often referred to by its nickname the Jumbo jet. Canada plans to fly in relief materials in an-8 Wing CFB Trenton.

In the wake of April 25’s devastating earthquake, the country’s lone international airports has seen three aircraft land with heavy payload of relief materials–Boeing 747-400 from Israel, Airbus A350 from France and Ilyushin Il-76 from India.

TIA officials said the decision was taken after more than three cracks appeared on the airstrip. More than 300 rescue flights, including 150 chartered, have landed at the TIA since the Great Earthquake rattled the country on April 25.

“As the runway problem has started to reappear, we cannot afford to permit landing of heavy jets,” said a high-level official at the TIA. “Unless we act immediately, the country’s only international airport could be in a risk of closure.”

This is the second instance in the last two years that the TIA has imposed such restriction due to cracks on the runway. In August 2013, the airport authority had asked all international carriers to find alternatives to wide-body aircraft flying into the airport. The cracks were first appeared on the runway in June 2011, which has since become a perennial problem.

A report submitted nearly a year ago by Ayesa Ingenieria, a Spanish company contracted to evaluate TIA’s runway and taxiway, had revealed that the TIA runway is not capable of handling wide-body aircraft due to its ageing asphalt foundation. The runway’s upper surface comes off instantly under stress when heavy jets land.

Meanwhile, the residents in the surrounding areas, particularly in Koteshwor, have complained the airport authority that they were terrified by the loud noise of the big jets. They have warned the authority that they would picket the airstrip unless it responds to their plea immediately.

Published: 03-05-2015 08:22

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