Monday, 1 May 2017

NEPAL: Tribhuvan International Airport To Be Expanded At $500 Million, Shree Airlines Acquires 2nd Bombardier Jet

The government has planned to implement the final expansion of Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) at a cost of $500 million starting in 2019 when the existing first phase upgradation project will be completed, said Sanjiv Gautam, director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan). “It’s the ultimate expansion of TIA.”

A new international terminal will be erected under the last phase of the expansion plan where a golf course currently stands, Gautam said. The present international terminal will be used to handle domestic flights.

The hangars of Nepal Airlines Corporation and Nepalese Army will be relocated. Likewise, a parallel taxiway will be constructed on either side of the runway. TIA is Nepal’s sole international airport.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is currently preparing the project report. “The final design is expected to be completed in two months,” said Gautam.

A number of government officials said that it was not wise to spend so much money on TIA when another full-fledged international airport can be built with it. “The government needs to rethink the final expansion of the project as it will be a waste of money,” the officials said.

The completion date for the first phase of the TIA improvement project has been pushed back to 2019 due to the tardiness of the previous contractor. It was originally scheduled to be finished by 2015.

The $92-million project, jointly funded by the government ($12 million) and the ADB ($80 million in loan and grant), was implemented on December 6, 2010, with the completion deadline set for March 2015.

The project hit a snag from the start as the soil to be used as filler for the expansion of the runway was not available. Work was held up for a few days after the airport was closed when a Turkish Airlines jet crash-landed in March 2015.

Subsequently, there were further delays due to the 2015 earthquakes and fuel shortages. The project’s completion deadline was first extended to 2015 and then to 2016, but after even that looked unachievable, the date was pushed back to 2018.

The project has been on hold since December after Spanish contractor Constructora Sanjose was sent off for non-performance.

By 2028 when the final phase is completed, TIA will be spread over 90,000 square meters. The airport currently occupies 36,000 square metres, with the international terminal taking up 32,000 square metres and the domestic terminal the rest.

As per the plan launched during the first phase, TIA will have 12 new aircraft parking bays for international flights and 27 for domestic flights.

New helipad, terminal to be built at Lukla

The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) will be acquiring 10 ropanis of land to build a modern helipad and terminal at Lukla airport. According to Caan, land acquisition will be completed next week.

“Work will begin by the next fiscal year,” said Caan Director General Sanjiv Gautam. He added that the existing helipad, which poses a safety threat, will be demolished to build four parking bays for domestic aircraft.

Lukla airport, named Tenzing-Hillary Airport after the Everest heroes, is the gateway to Everest.

During the peak seasons March-May and September-November, it becomes the country’s second busiest airport after TIA. Last week, the airport handled a record 105 flights in a single day, according to Gautam.

A programme entitled Most Extreme Airports which was broadcast on The History Channel in 2010 rated the airport as the most dangerous airport in the world. Tenzing-Hillary Airport lies at an elevation of 2,845 metres.

In January 2008, the airport was renamed in honour of Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary.

Shree Airlines gets 2nd Bombardier jet

Nepal’s largest helicopter operator Shree Airlines, welcomed its second Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ).

The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) has allocated the call sign 9N-AMA to the jet. Shree said its third 78-seater CRJ-700 will arrive after a fortnight.

“We have a target to put the jets into commercial operation by mid-May,” said Anil Manandhar, corporate manager of Shree Airlines.

The first 50-seater jet has been sent to Nepalgunj to paint its livery.

Shree has been allotted six sectors-Bhadrapur, Biratnagar, Bhairahawa, Nepalgunj, Dhangadhi and mountain flight.

It has become the second Nepali carrier to fly Bombardier aircraft after Saurya Airlines.

Airline officials said the reduced travel time offered by jet aircraft will help them attract travellers and break the duopoly of Buddha Air and Yeti Airlines on trunk routes.

Currently, Buddha Air, Yeti Airlines, Simrik Airlines, Saurya Airlines and Nepal Airlines serve domestic trunk routes. The airline has invested Rs2 billion on its expansion project. It will be hiring at least 200 more personnel for its expansion project.

Shree received a no objection certificate from Caan last March to buy or lease aircraft, eight months after the carrier applied to begin fixed-wing operations.

Although, Shree had planned to launch commercial operations by the end of 2016, stringent Air Operators Certificate requirements forced it to push back its launch date.

The carrier has also set an ambitious plan to connect South Asian markets in the second phase. Currently, it has an international operation licence for its MI-17 helicopters only. Started in 1999, it currently has six MI-17 and four Eurocopter AS350 B3e helicopters.

The domestic aviation sector has been moving towards recovery after putting the devastating earthquake behind them, but a spate of crashes has badly dented the reputation of Nepali airlines.

According to Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), Nepal’s domestic air passenger movement jumped 28.85 percent to 1.75 million in 2016, as travellers took to the air to avoid bone-jarring national highways.

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