Technicians to start fitting equipment at Bhairahawa airport next weekStalled installation of communication, navigation and surveillance, air traffic management and meteorological equipment will now resume, officials say.
Technicians are set to resume work at Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa following easing of coronavirus restrictions, and the second package of the stalled construction project is likely to restart by the third week of February.
Work stopped for nearly a year due to Covid-19 fears after more than 90 percent of the tasks had been completed. The second package consists of installation of communication, navigation and surveillance, air traffic management and meteorological equipment.
The contractor is sending two skilled workers from the United States and Canada to fit the instrument landing system (ILS) and VOR/DME, a radio beacon that combines a VHF omnidirectional range (VOR) with a distance measuring equipment (DME) next week, said Pravin Neupane, engineer for the second package of the project.
The ILS provides an approach path for precise alignment and descent of an aircraft on final approach to a runway.
The VOR is a type of short-range radio navigation system for aircraft, enabling aircraft with a receiving unit to determine its position and stay on course by receiving radio signals transmitted by a network of fixed ground radio signals.
The DME is often collocated with a VOR to give pilots a precise indication of the aircraft's distance.
“Both experts who are from the equipment manufacturer are scheduled to arrive in Nepal on February 20. They will begin the installation work from February 23.”
The two experts will complete the major components of the ILS and VOR/DME systems which will take at least a month, according to officials.
While the American experts will work on navigation systems, Austrian experts who will be arriving by the second week of March will work on various voice control communication systems used for Air Traffic Management communication. Other experts from the US will work on meteorological equipment.
“If all things go as planned, we can complete the installation of equipment and test them within four months,” said Neupane.
He said they had been holding informal talks with India and Australia to bring a special aircraft for the calibration of the Instrument Landing System and other navigation and communication equipment.
“We can complete the calibration within a week but the process to bring the special aircraft is not so easy.”
Rajan Pokhrel, director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, hopes to bring the airport into operation by this year following the latest development.
According to Pokhrel, installation of the runway lighting system, which is under the first package, was completed by mobilising Nepali workers after China’s Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group, the project contractor for the first phase or civil works, failed to bring skilled workers.
On September 12, 2020, the cabinet allowed projects to bring technicians from foreign countries since several projects were in limbo as skilled workers were stuck in different countries due to the lockdown measures imposed by Nepal to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
But even after the decision, the contractor failed to bring the workers as the virus caseload started to increase. The project hired Indian workers to install the central AC system in the terminal building after the contractor could not bring Chinese workers.
“All the finishings including the wiring works in the terminal building were stalled as the central AC system was not fitted. Now, along with the central AC system, almost all stalled components of the project have resumed,” said Pokhrel.
The Bhairahawa international airport project has earned a place among the list of longest running construction projects in the country after coming to a halt on various occasions, the last time due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Construction started in 2013, and was expected to be completed in 2017. But the project encountered multiple hurdles which pushed back the completion deadline several times. The latest completion target was set for December 2019—to open for Visit Nepal 2020. The airport is now slated to open in mid-2021.
Located in south-central Nepal, Gautam Buddha International Airport will be the gateway to the international pilgrimage destination of Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha. The airport will have a 3,000-metre-long and 45-metre-wide runway.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal had awarded the first package—the Rs6.22 billion civil works component—to China’s Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group in November 2013.