Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Sikkim: SpiceJet only airline to operate from Pakyong airport from January 23

Gangtok: Greenfield Airport in Pakyong, which has been stalled from operations since end of 2019, has been declared open for operations from January 23. SpiceJet, so far, is the only airline that has been onboard in Pakyong and for the future as well, it seems like it will the only airline catering to Delhi and Kolkata as declared earlier by the airline.

There is a specific technical reason for the same. With its high-altitude, table-top runway, Pakyong has for long struggled with visibility concern, resulting in air operations being stalled after a year-long operation since October 4, 2018. Now, to ease the visibility concern, Airport Authority of India has reached a consensus with Directorate General of Civil Aviation to introduce Required Navigation Performance System, specific to Pakyong Airport only in the country.

Required navigation performance (RNP) is a type of performance-based navigation (PBN) that allows an aircraft to fly a specific path between two 3D-defined points in space. A navigation specification that includes a requirement for on-board navigation performance monitoring and alerting is referred to as an RNP specification. Therefore, if ATC radar monitoring is not provided, safe navigation in respect to terrain shall be self-monitored by the pilot and RNP shall be used. RNP also refers to the level of performance required for a specific procedure or a specific block of airspace. An RNP of 10 means that a navigation system must be able to calculate its position to within a circle with a radius of 10 nautical miles.

According to Airport Authority of India, RNP is a metric of system navigational capability. "The Airports Authority of India is moving towards a performance-based national airspace system. In the future, your ability to fly in certain areas may be governed by ability to achieve precise navigational performance within specific tolerances. RNP 0.1 will be used for approaches, and it refers to 0.1 nautical mile accuracy. This accuracy may be achieved through various means (GPS, GAGAN, flight management system using automatic DME updates), but aircraft will be certified to a particular RNP. There are other requirements beyond accuracy that will be defined for each RNP operation before it is implemented".

"The same to be implemented for Pakyong Airport, requires 5 km of air region", informed AAI Director for Pakyong Airport Ramtanu Saha following a meeting with Indian Air Force Officials, AAI officials and officials from DGCA at Bagdogra Airport on Tuesday. "Pakyong is a dangerous place to have an airport, undoubtedly. It is a hilly area that is border sensitive. We have not been given the air region. We have approached for 5 km of the area with navigation through our own Air Traffic Control. Concerning the same the Limit of Authority agreement had to be signed. There were officials who had come from Eastern Region along with officials from Guwahati, Airport Authority of India. There are 2-3 air regions that will come in concern, with all their consent it was finally approved for RNP".

20/01/21 Pankaj Dhungel/EastMojo

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