Nepal’s Air Traffic Control (ATC) can now monitor the country’s entire airspace and keep track of aircraft from the Himalaya to the Indian border using an advanced radar system recently built on a Hilltop in Lalitpur.
The misfortunes in July and September, which occurred in the hills surrounding Kathmandu, involved a Thai Airways flight and a Pakistan International Airlines flight respectively. They killed 280 people altogether.
On Monday, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) completed flight inspection of the new MSSR at Bhatte Danda. Following the successful test, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has planned to begin commercial operation of the radar system starting from February 1st, 2017.
The advanced radar system covers almost all parts of Nepal, including parts of Indian airspace and the entire Himalaya, allowing increased efficiency and safety in areas where radar coverage has so far been limited.
“The MSSR coverage will be extended to the entire eastern, southern and Himalaya regions, and up to Surkhet in the west,” said Sanjiv Singh Kathayat, Chief of the project.
Flight inspection of the MSSR continued for 20 hours for three consecutive days with a Bombardier Challenger 600 jet. The FAA will submit a detailed report of the inspection within 15 days, and CAAN will publish a notice in the Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP), said Kathayat. The AIP published by CAAN which contains information about the latest air navigation system installed in Nepal. It will take 57 days to complete the process, he said.
International and domestic flights, the need for greater efficiency and accuracy has been acutely felt, said Kathayat. More than 40 air traffic controllers have received training to operate the new radar system. The next generation radar provides improved accuracy and enhanced surveillance and marks the entry of the latest technology in Nepal’s air traffic control.
According to Kathayat, radar surveillance will increase fivefold after it is switched on for commercial operation on 1st February. Almost all air routes across Nepal are visible on the radar system, so it will make the ATC’s job easier, he said. Similarly, ATC can put up more aircraft on any route at a given time which will reduce airspace congestion, particularly at TIA.
In bad weather conditions or in case of a navigation equipment failure in an aircraft, ATC can provide radar vectoring services.
TIA currently owns primary and secondary surveillance radar. The existing system at Kathmandu airport was installed in 1997 under Japanese official development assistance. It was set up at a cost of $34 million.
The Japan government’s grant to modernize TIA came after two major crashes involving Thai Airways and Pakistan International Airlines aircraft. Seventeen high-level Japanese diplomats were killed in the Thai crash. In 1994, the Japanese government conducted a detailed study of the radar system at TIA and the project was completed in 1997.
The installation of a secondary radar at Bhatte Danda had been proposed in 1994 when the Nepal government approved Japan’s plan to modernize TIA. However, the plan was put on hold due to multiple reasons.
The plan to install a sophisticated radar materialized in 2013 when the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) approved NPR. 906 million grant for Nepal as part of the broader TIA modernization project. The MSSR was completed in July 2016 after four years of work.
The commissioning of the system was delayed as CAAN did not receive a single bidder even after global tenders were issued twice to conduct flight inspection.
Reference: The Kathmandu Post