Navaid purchase plan by MIAA questioned

By Recto L. Mercene, Business Mirror

Posted at Jan 24 2011 10:28 AM | Updated as of Jan 25 2011 12:29 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Airport insiders are questioning the plan of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) to purchase a new navigational aid (navaid) system in the face of an impending implementation of a high-tech, multibillion-peso project called Air Traffic Management/Communication Navigation System (ATM/CNS) by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

“The VOR [very high frequency omnidirectional range] would become a secondary means of aiding pilot once the ATM/CNS is in place, so why give priority to the purchase of a new navaid?” asked airports insiders who are not allowed to speak publicly on the subject.

The ATM/CNS is the P4-billion contract awarded by the DOTC to a foreign consortium for the modernization of the country’s air-traffic control system, which has been the subject of Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada’s privileged speech a week ago.

The contract was reportedly awarded to Thales Australia, a global electronics company catering to the aerospace, defense and security market. Estrada was apparently referring to the Thales France that he accused of having a “trail of bad records.”

Thales Australia would be the technology partner of Sumitomo for the installation of a modern communication, navigation surveillance and air- traffic management system at the country’s premier airport. This system relies on the networks of orbiting satellites and is now being used by more advanced countries.

The Philippines failed to meet the installation target of 2010 owing to some problems and now the Dotc had conducted another bidding that was won by Thales Australia and the project’s new planned completion is now 2013.

In this connection, the MIAA and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) are evaluating the offer of a Korean company to install a new navigational aid at concessional rate of 1/10 of 1% interest per annum for 5 years, and a warranty of 10 to 12 years.

However, CAAP chief Ramon Gutierrez did not make clear how much the VOR would cost.

The MIAA and the CAAP are shopping for a new VOR to replace its aging equipment that has been giving airline operators headaches because it frequently bogs down, forcing them to fly to alternate airports and wasting a lot of aviation fuel, which would otherwise represent the low- cost carriers’ (LCC) profit.

A new VOR would cost from P80 million to P120 million, although Thales, the current brand being used, is offering P50 million to upgrade the existing Vor, which is guaranteed to last for another 10 years.

The Air Navigation Service (ANS), a unit of the CAAP that maintains and operates all the country’s navaids, says there are two ways to replace a navigational aid: restoration, which means replacing or renewing an existing one; or replacement, which meant buying an entirely new VOR.

Andy Basallote, ANS chief, said MIAA general manager Jose Honrado seems to favor buying a new VOR, which would require bidding, installation, flight check and calibration, which would last for about one year. “It is the bidding process that would consume so much time.” ?

He said once a new brand is chosen, then CAAP and ANS personnel would undergo training in the country where the navaid is manufactured, which is also part of the contract and is included in the cost of the equipment.

It is for this last reason that Gutierrez says he initially favors using the same brand of VOR now in use at the MIAA.

Basallote said if restoration is resorted to, the cost to the government would be about P45 million to P50 million, since the “old” Distance Measuring Equipment, a separate but integral part of the DVOR, and the “counterpoise” or the steel bracing supporting the whole structure would be retained.

He added that once the CNS/ATM is installed, the VOER would still be useful, including the Instrument Landing System and the Area Navigation (R-Nav), which are currently in use at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.