Thursday, April 23, 2009

Manila's Secondary Runway should get approach lighting CAAP - More Woes!

THE Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) could have access to another runway besides runway 06-24, provided the Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) provides a special form of runway lights costing about P5 million.

Director General Ruben Ciron of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) made this statement in the wake of Miaa General Manager Alfonso Cusi’s suggestion that runway 13-31 should be used by smaller aircraft classified as belonging to “general aviation [GenAv].”

Cusi made the suggestion to decongest international runway 06-24, and also to avoid its temporary closure during emergencies or accidents.

The Naia’s main runway was closed for three hours on Sunday after a light aircraft, belonging to the Care Jet Co. of the United States, aborted its takeoff about 8 p.m. when its landing gears erupted in fire and smoke.

The aircraft stopped in the middle of the runway, while responding firefighters prevented the fire from spreading.

No one among the four persons onboard were hurt, including the pilot, copilot and two medical assistants.

The Cessna jet flew in from Guam at 6 p.m. Sunday with a patient onboard, seeking medical treatment in the Philippines.

Due to the accident, scores of arriving international and domestic flights were diverted to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark, Pampanga. Normal operations at the Naia resumed at 11 p.m.

The Miaa chief, not wanting a repeat of the debacle, has suggested to the Naia Time Slotting Committee to review the scheduling of small aircraft, weighing 25,000 kilograms or below, by directing them to domestic runway 13-31.

“Aircraft like these are usually owned by operators at our GenAv and, therefore, would be most logical to make them use the domestic runway for landing and take-off. In so doing, we can maximize the use of the international runway for commercial operations,” Cusi added.

When asked to comment about the incident, Ciron said that air-traffic controllers assigned the Westwind II aircraft to take off on runway 06-24 since runway 13-31 is only used by light aircraft during daytime, or when good weather condition prevails.

“One of the solutions to decongest runway 06-24 is to convert runway 13-31 into an instrument runway,” Ciron said in a letter to Cusi on April 16.

“Instrument runways” could be used at day- or nighttime or during bad weather when pilots could use the navigational aids, such as the distance-measuring equipment, and the very high-frequency Omni-directional range, to land and take off safely.

However, before the domestic runway could be made into an all-weather runway, Ciron suggested that Cusi install in it a Runway Threshold Identification Light “to complete the airfield lighting system requirements for such runway.”

The Caap chief said a New Zealand aviation company, which also conducted flight checks in scores of provincial airports, had already subjected runway 13-31 to several flight checks. “The Caap had already designed the approach chart of runway 13 and had finished the corresponding flight checks,” Ciron said, adding that the foreign aviation experts have declared the runway safe for instrument approach.

The domestic runway used to be an instrument runway about 10 years ago, but was temporarily decommissioned after several tall buildings on Roxas Boulevard were built, disrupting the radio signals from the navigational aids.

The buildings were aligned with the domestic runway, and the radio signals coming from the navigational aids tended to be disrupted due to the buildings’ interference, Ciron said.

A decade ago, the then-Air Transportation Office sued the owners of the buildings for violation of aviation rules, forcing them to reduce the height of the concrete and glass buildings.

However, some of them remain at heights in violation of Caap rules, which made the nav-aids ineffective and dangerous to use, since their signals could mislead pilots.

Lately, Ciron has led the move to restore runway 13-31 to an all-weather runway, seeking the cooperation of the Miaa for a joint effort, so that the Naia could have two instrument runways and reduce the congestion that is now the bane of the 30-member Airline Operators Council.

The Caap has realigned the angle of radio signals for the safe use of pilots landing on the domestic airport, in conjunction with the proposed threshold lighting system.

Despite this, however, the domestic airport would remain a “nonprecision” runway due to the absence of an “instrument landing system,” which only runway 06-24 is equipped at the moment.

The presence of the tall buildings on the approach of the domestic runway would never allow an ILS to be installed there, Ciron told the BusinessMirror.

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