MANILA, Philippines – Global airlines have tagged the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) as one of the high-risk airports in the Asia-Pacific region due to unresolved safety concerns as well as poor infrastructure.
In a paper entitled “Immediate and long-term priorities for Manila Airports,” the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said member airlines were seriously concerned about the safety of the ground movement operations and management of the airside infrastructure at the NAIA.
“IATA is gravely concerned with a number of operational issues including some that may compromise safety of airline operations,” IATA said.
It pointed out that NAIA was routinely characterized by airlines as one of the top high-risk airports in the Asia-Pacific from 2010 to 2013 due to air traffic management issues including extended holding, vectors and delays, non-standard air traffic control procedures, among others.
This prompted IATA regional director for safety and flight operations Asia-Pacific Blair Cowles to issue an Operational Notice to all airline members flying to the Philippines via NAIA last May 26.
“This Operational Notice alerts airlines to the ongoing risk to aircraft operations at Manila arising from unaddressed deficiencies in airside ground movement aids,” Cowles said.
He pointed out that the association has received an increasing number of airline safety reports since 2012 highlighting deficiencies in airport signage, markings, lighting and charting, particularly at the intersection of Runway 31/13 and Runway 06/24, also known as “hotspot” area.
According to IATA, flight crews have described this “hotspot” area as poorly lit, with markings and signage that are non-standard and poorly maintained, and confusing due to the complex configuration of taxiways.
IATA said it has received three reports of runway incursion events in the “hotspot” area since November last year.
To reduce airside ground safety risks at the “hotspot” area, IATA said ground movement aids should be installed and maintained while air traffic control procedures should be put in place.
Likewise, IATA said aeronautical charts should be updated to accurately show the existing airfield layout, dimensions and markings.
On infrastructure capacity, IATA reiterated the need for higher capacity and throughput through more efficient air traffic control and improvements in the runway system. This should increase the throughput to 51 or even 56 takeoffs and landings per hour from the current 40.
“An increase of 40 percent in capacity will go a long way in reducing the congestion issues at the airport,” IATA said.
It added the government should invest more in developing NAIA over the short to medium term to relieve congestion and help ease existing capacity constraints.
“Limited investment in NAIA will continue to result in the ongoing degradation of passenger experience at NAIA. This will have a detrimental impact on the airport’s ability to attract transfer traffic, and the airport’s reputation in the region,” it said.
The IATA is also pushing for the construction of new terminal buildings with sufficient structural flexibility to accommodate different business models and requirements over time such as additional building levels, power, new aircraft types, emerging technologies, changing security and immigration requirements, among others.
The government, it added, may use the Clark International Airport in Pampanga as an interim solution to alleviate some of the current capacity issues but that it should not be made into a long-term primary gateway.
Instead, IATA said the Philippines should develop a new greenfield airport with sufficient capacity to meet Manila’s aviation needs within a 50-kilometer radius from the city center.
Source: Lawrence Agcaoili, The Philippine Star