Runway end safety areas at Tribhuvan International Airport improvedThe runway was extended by 300 metres at the southern end, making its total length 3,350 metres.
The runway of Tribhuvan International Airport has been extended by 300 metres at its southern end, upgrading the runway end safety areas to current standards.
The runway now has safety areas, each 300 metres in length, at both the northern Bouddha and southern Koteshwor ends. The extra length is intended to reduce risk in the event of an aircraft overshooting or undershooting the runway.
Besides the extension of the runway which took eight years, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal has completed the much-delayed new departure terminal building that is expected to increase the airport's passenger handling capacity to some extent.
The runway extension project had aimed to lengthen the safety area at the northern end on the Bouddha side. There was no overrun area here, and if a plane taking off from this end should run out of runway, it could plunge into a ravine 50-60 metres deep. So it was decided to lengthen the runway at the southern end on the Koteshwor side.
"Now we will have safety areas 300 metres in length at both ends of the runway as per safety requirements," said Rajan Pokhrel, director general at the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal.
Following the extension of the safety areas, the total length of the runway of Nepal's sole international airport has reached 3,350 metres.
"Now, if an aircraft making its takeoff roll from the northern end aborts takeoff, it will have room to stop on the runway," said Pokhrel.
The airport authority had awarded the runway extension contract to a Nepali joint venture Kalika-Tundi in December 2018.
The company is the third contractor for the Rs1 billion project, taking the place of previous contractor, Shanxi Construction Engineering Group of China, which fled after abandoning its performance bond.
In October 2017, Shanxi Construction Engineering Group won the bid to undertake the major airside and landside infrastructure improvement works, known as Package 1, at the airport after the original contractor, Spanish company Constructora Sanjose, was sent off for non-performance in December 2016.
The duration of the runway extension project was 21 months. The Chinese contractor baulked at undertaking the project complaining that prices of construction materials had jumped steeply.
Initially, the Asian Development Bank funded TIA Modernisation Project, now known as Air Transport Capacity Enhancement Project, was awarded to a Spanish company Sanjose in December 2012 with the completion deadline set for March 2016.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal was forced to send the Spanish company off by officially issuing a ‘notice of termination’ on December 9, 2016 for delays. The termination of the contract became effective on December 27, 2016.
In June 2017, the airport authority again invited bids to get the stalled project moving. It also broke up the project undertaken by the Spanish company into four different packages.
Package 2, which includes construction of an international terminal building and associated works, was awarded to a Nepali contractor. "The new departure terminal has been completed as well," said Pokhrel.
He said that Packages 3 and 4, which consist of building a parallel taxiway, are yet to be awarded. Package 4 consists of soil filling works on the northern side of the airport and construction of parking bays.
Due to delays, the completion date for the $92-million project was pushed back to 2019. Eventually, the bank closed its funding to the project to begin a fresh investment in 2020, but the lockdown prevented the new project from moving ahead.
After the construction is completed, Tribhuvan International Airport will be able to handle more than 5.85 million passengers annually and accommodate bigger aircraft.
Pokhrel said that the airport completed construction of two new parking bays at the south-western side of the runway that will accommodate two wide-body jets or three narrow-body jets. With this, Kathmandu airport will have 11 parking bays—four for wide-body jets. In addition, the airport has two remote parking bays on the eastern side of the runway.
Due to a limited number of parking bays, international flights have to be put in a holding pattern for long periods.