DOTC teams up with British firm to ease Naia air traffic (Business Mirror (Philippines))

THE Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has tapped the consultancy services of British firm NATS-renowned worldwide for its air-traffic management expertise-to maximize runway use at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio A. Abaya said the P66-million runway optimization deal awarded to the joint venture between NATS Services Limited and Schema Konsult Inc. will help ease congestion at the country’s primary gateway.

Over the contract’s 12-month span, the group will aim to increase hourly air-traffic movements (ATMs) from 40 to 60 by determining the optimal configuration for the airport’s intersecting runways.

We are excited to work with one of the world’s best firms in the industry toward optimizing Naia’s runway capacity. With NATS-which has worked on the Dubai, Singapore and Heathrow Airports-we can expect safer, more efficient operations, and much less flight delays and cancellations, he said.

NATS provides air-traffic navigation services to the world’s busiest single- and dual-runway airports: London Gatwick handles 53 ATMs per hour and over 250,000 flights per year; and London Heathrow handles 90 ATMs per hour and over 470,000 flights per year.

It has boosted runway capacity at the Hong Kong International Airport by 30 percent. It also redesigned Dubai’s Al Maktoum International Airport’s airspace, and is now tasked to increase ATMs at the Singapore Changi Airport.

Abaya noted that the road map for short- and long-term improvements will focus on the optimization of runway capacity by cutting aircrafts’ occupancy times; the development of Air Traffic Controllers’ (ATC) surveillance capabilities through technology and determining needed alterations to access points; and the maximization of available airspace by reducing restrictions and making procedural improvements to tighten intervals between aircraft movements.

During the first six months of its contract, NATS will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the airport’s current airspace, runway, and terminal capacities; air traffic and surface operations; runway access points; and ATC training.

The Manila International Airport Authority and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines will then implement the recommended improvement measures over the ensuing six months.

These agencies have also implemented measures to help ease runway congestion, such as the reactivation of Runway 31 last July and the relocation of general aviation activities.

Manila’s main gateway has been plagued by issues on inefficiency and congestion brought about by the lack of investments in infrastructure.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency has predicted that this year would mark the start of the main gateway’s dark days. The airport is expected to handle some 37.78 million passengers, way beyond its 30-million annual passenger capacity and a few notches up from its maximum capacity of 35 million passengers per year.

Japanese consultants had proposed that the new international gateway be constructed in Sangley Point in Cavite to meet the parameters set by the transportation agency. The future airport will boast of four runways, which can handle 700,000 aircraft movements per year. It will have a rated capacity of 130 million passengers annually.

The deal is expected to be implemented under the government’s key infrastructure program, mixed with funding from official development assistance.

Commercial operations of the new airport should start by 2025 just about 10 years from now.