21 June 2010

Int’l, domestic flight operations at NAIA return to normal (Subic Airport related story)

All international and domestic flight operations at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) returned to normal operations after the airport’s navigational system that conked out last Saturday morning were repaired.

But the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) extended the Notice to Airmen about the limited operations of the Manila runways until 8 a.m. Monday as the system still needs to undergo reconfiguring and recalibration.

The airport’s Very High Frequency Omni Radio Range (VOR) station, used to guide pilots to land their aircraft during low visibility and bad weather, conked out last Saturday, forcing aviation authorities to limit night time operations at the Manila runways.

NAIA general manager Melvin Matibag said a replacement part was borrowed from the Subic airport and that it arrived in Manila around 3 a.m. yesterday.

The installation of the power supply took a couple of hours but technicians from the CAAP started to power-up the navigation system yesterday morning.

CAAP technical assistant Lito Casaul explained the power supply came from a similar but different navigation system.

“The technicians cannot just power-up the system and go. They have to slowly power-up each of the system’s component to check if everything is working properly. If and when the system proves to be okay, they can then begin to reconfigure the unit,” Casaul said.

“Hopefully, we can have the system up before sundown so we can resume with normal operations at the two runways,” Casaul said.

With the VOR inoperable, pilots have to rely on Visual Flight Rules (VFR) and the radar and other visual aids such as the runway lights to see where to land.

The pilots could have done easily even without VOR and rely on the airport’s Instrument Landing System (ILS) for guidance but, unfortunately, the ILS at the NAIA is currently being replaced.

With both the VOR and ILS navigational systems down, the CAAP was forced to implement stricter rules on night landing and made the separations between airplanes much longer apart.

During normal operations, with all the systems running, flight separation between aircraft is less than one minute. However, with the limited operations Saturday night, airplanes had to be separated by a minimum of five minutes to assure their safety.

At the same time, the CAAP gave the airline companies
the discretion if they would allow their pilots to proceed to land at the airport even with the limited navigational aids. Matibag, however, said should bad weather come into play, the Manila Control Tower will be forced to deny pilots permission to land.

According to Matibag, should zero visibility blanket the airport vicinity, pilots can easily divert to either the Cebu, Clark or Subic airports. (Conrado Ching, Daily Tribune)