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By Brian Tobia

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (July 1, 1998 - Post-Courier)---An option to award Papua New Guinea's upper airspace management contract to Australian Air Services was hotly debated yesterday by aviation experts from both countries.

The Australians opposed the $US 32 million (about K 68 million) radar project awarded to the Italian company, Alenia, by the government. The contention was why build a national radar system when a satellite navigation and communication system was in easy reach.

It involves the installation of secondary surveillance radar at Nadzab, Wewak, Daru, Gurney and Tokua, with short range primary radar co-located at the first three locations.

It is understood Australian Air Services already has control over Solomon Islands upper air-space and wants control of PNG's too.

The Australians warned that Qantas would be forced to divert its flight routes away from PNG if the government chose to go with the Italian radar system.

Local aviation industry experts are not convinced that the proposal to transfer the management of PNG's upper airspace (over 24,000 feet) used by international overflying aircraft would be of economic benefit to the country. They expressed concern that giving away the air space management contract would be "surrendering our sovereignty . . . we must protect our sovereignty by managing our own airspace to gain maximum economic benefits.''

Air Navigation Services chief engineer John Cholai said the current ground-based radar system is efficient.

According to the CNS/ATM Transition Plan 1998-2013 currently under discussion, inflow of revenue from international over-flights is K3.87 million per year.

Total revenue inflow for OCA from service charges on domestic and international aircraft (using the ground radar system) is K25.9 million per year. According to Mr. Cholai and other OCA experts, the proposed transition may jeopardize this revenue inflow because the Australian Air Services satellite system "has no solution for domestic flight services.''

Part of OCA's 15-year plan for transition to satellite-based systems dealing with navigational and communication services recommends that the primary and secondary surveillance radar systems would be used as stand-bys after PNG is connected to satellite-based technology.

This draft plan, titled Communication Navigation Surveillance and Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM), is being discussed and would form the basis for upgrading aviation safety services once approved.

OCA provides air navigational services to operators under regulations which permit charging of services and major revenues from international overflying aircraft. The government intends to implement a "full cost recovery plan'' once costs can be established accurately.

Domestic aircraft movement forecasts are expected to rise to about 109,000 a year by 2001 and OCA experts are concerned that the CNS/ATM system has no plans to manage it. This is because the system could only cater for international air traffic overflight over 24,000 feet.

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