Taking wing

  • The removal of the Turkish Airlines aircraft from TIA was conducted perfectly, honestly, and professionally
Taking wing

Mar 17, 2015-

The March 4 Turkish Airlines incident at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), resulting in the closure of the airport’s operations for four days, generated criticism from the general public as well as the media. Public concerns were mostly related to the handling of stranded passengers, the poor response to their grievances, mismanagement at the airport, and inadequate preparedness plans to handle such incidents. The negative impact of the incident on the tourism industry and its damaging effect to the nation’s image was also their concern. It was only natural for the general public to react in this way.

It’s not unusual

The fact remains that such accidents cannot be predicted; they can only be planned for. Airports therefore must develop their own emergency response plans to deal effectively with emergencies, based on the guidelines provided by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao). If considered from this angle, the Turkish Airlines incident was not unexpected. Even as TIA was handling the Turkish Airlines plane, there were two similar incidents in the US. One was an emergency evacuation in Denver on the same day, March 4 and another was Delta Airlines Flight 1086 at LaGuardia Airport in New York, on March 5, which skidded off the runway while landing and crashed through a chain-link fence. This flight was carrying 125 passengers and five crew members, no one was seriously injured. The airport was closed until further notice. The media did not provide much space to those incidents as there are many international airports with multiple runways in the US. So the impact would have been negligible. However, in Nepal, the closure of its only international airport, that too with a single runway, the impact was unimaginable.

So what is the international practice in such situations and how are they dealt with? International flight operations are guided by norms and standards prescribed by Icao. As far as airport operation is concerned, all guiding principles are based on the Icao Airport Services Manual, also called Document 9137. Part 5 of the Airport Services Manual provides detailed guidelines regarding the Removal of Disabled Aircraft (Roda). Based on this document, TIA has also prepared its own disabled aircraft removal plan. The primary purpose of this document is to ensure required preparedness and provide adequate guidelines in case of such incidents for the quick removal of disabled aircraft to resume normal airport operations.

However, to clarify, the removal of disabled aircraft is the responsibility of the aircraft operator—in this case, Turkish Airlines—as the operator or owner will have to bear the cost involved. But it is also partly the responsibility of the state and the aerodrome operator.

Recovery procedures

General recovery tools for stranded aircraft, such as hand tools, cranes, and tugs, are usually available locally with the vital specialised lifting equipment found at some locations around the world. With the advent of wide-body aircraft, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) found it necessary to take preparatory measures to make such lifting equipment available on short notice on a worldwide basis. Because of the comparatively high cost of this equipment, attention was given to solving the problem of its provision at minimal cost to the industry while ensuring consistent and adequate availability.

The International Airlines Technical Pool (IATP) provides a number of aircraft recovery kits at strategic locations around the world. Currently there are 10 such kits and they are maintained by provider airlines. These kits are funded by a fee charged to each airline as per landing at each specific aerodrome. Initial incorporation of these kits at certain aerodromes was based on the large initial cost required to purchase the equipment and the reluctance of individual airlines to purchase their own. This pool format allows the cost to be shared by a large group of operators. Current locations of the kits and their providers are London, England (British Airways); Paris, France (Air France); Johannesburg, South Africa (South African Airways); Tokyo, Japan (Japan Airlines); New York, USA (Delta Airlines); Chicago, the US (American Airlines); Los Angeles, the US (American Airlines); Honolulu,

the US (United Airlines); Sydney, Australia (Qantas Airlines); and Mumbai, India

(Air India).

According to the IATP website, it currently has 101 member airlines including the Turkish Airlines. The following are IATP member airlines with air services to Nepal—Jet Airways, Air India, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Air China, China Airlines, Etihad Airways, Gulf Air, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Austrian Airlines, PIA, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, and Oman Air. This list shows that Turkish Airlines, as a member of IATP, is entitled to removal services from the nearest base, which

is Mumbai.

These kits are available not only to the pool’s member airlines but also to any other suffering party upon request, on a paid basis. The responsibility for transporting the kit from its pool location to where it is required lies with the suffering aircraft operator. Generally, the cost is covered

by insurance.

A kit from one of the pool locations can be transported to any airport in the world where it may be required, within five or six hours to a maximum of 10 hours. Since it may take up to 20 hours for site preparation (defueling, access road, collection of manpower and local equipment), before the kit can be used, it would appear that the operation of the airport will not be hindered by the unavailability of this specialised equipment.

All well, all done

From the above information it can be concluded that no injury to the passengers is the most fortunate part of the TIA incident. The aircraft was removed efficiently without any further damage within a reasonable time period. The removal process and procedure was as per international standard and norms. No significant questions can be raised about the conduct of any party in this whole process. All stakeholders performed their parts perfectly, honestly, and professionally.  

Manandhar is former Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal

Published: 18-03-2015 08:37

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