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Caan starts work to restore TIA’s crumbling runway

- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu
For the last four years, TIA has had to forbid aircraft weighing more than 196 tonnes to land on the ageing runway to prevent further damage

Jul 23, 2016-The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) has started work to rehabilitate the 50-year-old runway at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) as it has been affecting smooth operation of aircraft due to repeated occurrences of cracks in the pavement.

For the last four years, TIA has had to forbid aircraft weighing more than 196 tonnes to land on the ageing runway to prevent further damage.

On Friday, Caan issued a prequalification notice for potential bidders for the rehabilitation project. They have been given a deadline of September 4 to submit their documents. Caan has allocated $28 million for the improvement of the 3,050-metre runway and taxiways. It will dip into the Airport Development Fund (ADF) to finance the project.

Since July 17, 2014, Caan has been collecting an extra Rs1,000 in airport development tax from each passenger departing on international flights from TIA. The money thus accumulated will be spent on projects to improve facilities at TIA.

“After the prequalification, we will invite bids and then award the project contract by October,” said Devanand Upadhyay, general manager of TIA. “If things go as planned, the construction work will begin by December this year.”

He said December would be an appropriate time to begin the project as it’s a slow tourism season, and the rehabilitation work will not affect operations at the airport.

According to Caan officials, the net construction time which is six hours in the night time for runway construction is four months. For the construction of the taxiway, it will take at least eight months.

A study conducted by Caan in 2014 had concluded that the runway at TIA was not strong enough to handle wide-body aircraft due to its ageing asphalt foundation, and distress is caused to the upper surface instantly when heavy jets land. The damage to the lower asphalt layers is reflected quickly in the upper surface, resulting in cracks and other damage to the runway.

The study report has suggested that the lower layers of the runway be dug up and the foundation repaved by removing damaged asphalt layers and substituting them with a new base and surface courses.

Repeated occurrences of cracks on the runway at the country’s sole international aerial gateway have been affecting smooth operation of aircraft since 2011.

Scores of flights have been diverted or delayed in recent years due to problems in the runway. Trouble mainly occurs during the rainy season.

The report said that when compared to the core part of the runway between 2006 and 2013, damage to the intermediate layers was caused by the operation of large jets like the Airbus A330 and Boeing 777.

In 2013, there were 1,000 operations of A330-300 aircraft, 955 of Boeing 777 and 452 of A330-200, and the numbers are expected to double in the next 20 years.

Cracks first appeared on the runway in June 2011, and they have become a recurrent problem now. Cracks were reported occasionally in 2012. However, the problem worsened in 2013, forcing Caan to take a harsh decision to bar aircraft weighing more than 196 tonnes from landing at TIA for a month.

The runway was extended to 2,000 metres by USAID in 1967 and again to 3,050 metres in 1975. Overlay work on 2,000 metres of the runway was done in 1985 and on the entire runway in 1995. Resurfacing of the runway and taxiway was completed by Caan in 2011.

However, the runway overlay that cost Rs240 million caved in four months after its construction, inviting the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee to probe the quality of work.

Published: 23-07-2016 08:06

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