THE Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) on Monday said it will temporarily close the Tagaytay surveillance radar from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. from March 6 to 11 for maintenance and upgrade.
The maintenance will covers the overhauling of antenna and replacement of its drive motor and rotary joints.
“The closure would also be in preparation for the integration of the Tagaytay radar with the CNS/ATM, which would be fully operational by December this year,” Caap Director General, Capt. Jim Sydiongco said in a press conference.
He said despite the closure, the Caap has two remaining en-route radars to provide air-traffic service.
“We still have the en-route radars in Laoag and Mount Majic in Cebu,” Sydiongco said.
Tagaytay radar could cover 200 nautical miles (nm) of airspace, which is primarily used to direct incoming flights from all over the world toward the terminal radar, located beside the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) runway 06-24.
The terminal radar accepts control of aircraft from the feed provided by the Tagaytay radar through the area control center from 60 nm. It brings incoming aircraft for landing at the Naia.
However, because of the closure, the number of flights at the Naia would have to be reduced.
“We have met with the airline companies to announce the repair and upgrade and they are readjusting their schedules, or upgrading passengers from, for example, A320 to A330,” Sydiongco said.
Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) General Manager Ed Monreal said the reduction would affect the more than 700 flights a day being handled by the Naia.
“We would like to advise the local air carriers to top up their tanks because they might encounter delays,” Monreal said.
Over the last few years, the country had seen the explosive growth of local airlines, said Octavio Lina, Miaa deputy manager for operations.
He said two years ago, the Naia handled only 500 flights a day.
“There is so much growth in the number of flights we have forwarded all scheduled flights to Airport Coordination Australia, who will have to assign a particular slot for every air carrier. If they missed that slot, then other carriers would take over down the line to avoid congestion,” Lina said.
Legacy carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) said some of the passengers would be adviced of the airport’s closure because some of their flights would be canceled, while affected passengers would either be upgraded to bigger airplanes or have their schedules adjusted.
“PAL has 150 flight legs a day. We will announce by next week that flights would be absorbed by other flights,” said Spokesman Cielo Villaluna, explaining flight leg refers to inbound and outbound flights.
“That means we have 75 outbound and 75 inbound departures per day,” she said.
Meanwile, Sydiongco said the Caap is studying whether the remaining 1,000 feet of the 1,700- feet-long Surigao runway could be used while repair works are being done to the 700 feet damage by the magnitude-6.7 earthquake that struck Surigao City recently.
“The Caap is asking the help of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology [Phivolcs] to assess the depth of the cracks on the runway and also to find out whether there is liquefaction underneath so that we could use the 1,000 feet of the runway for operations,” Sydiongco said.
He said Caap records showed Surigao airport is near a river and a creek and the possibility of liquefaction underneath the runway could not be ignored.
“It is only Philvolcs director, Renato Solidum, who could determine the presence of liquefaction and we have to wait until their study of the area is finished before we could proceed with the runway construction,” Sydiongco said.
Surigao airport was closed to operations since February 11 after its runway buckled from the magnitude-6.7 earthquake that struck Surigao City on February 10, causing extensive damage to the city, including the runway and terminal building.
The Caap has ordered the closure in a notice-to-airmen or Notam.
Sydiongco assured the riding public the aviation regulator is doing its best to accelerate the repairs to put Surigao airport back to normal operations very soon.