The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, being the sole operator of airports across the country, has failed to enforce safety measures to check incessant bird strikes.
Though bird strikes have remained a challenge to airlines operators, country’s airports don’t have any wildlife control initiative in place to minimise interaction between birds and aircraft. Tribhuvan International Airport and airports at Bhairahawa, Pokhara and Biratnagar are more vulnerable to bird hits than other airports in the country and air disasters are waiting to happen there if proper measures are not taken at the earliest, the officials said, adding that most incidents of bird hits usually occur in September to December. Airport authorities have recorded nearly 100 incidents of bird strike, most of them in TIA, in the last 15 years.
Stating that bird hits often lead to spiralling costs in terms of fixing damaged engines, loss of revenue and other maintenance expenses, the Airline Operators’ Association of Nepal claims that it has repeatedly urged CAAN to address the problem at the earliest. “But CAAN has always turned a deaf ear to operators’ call,” AOAN’s Executive Director Kamlesh Kumar Verma said.
According to him, the losses could be reduced if CAAN stepped up control measures at the airports. Airline operators also noted that negligence in the approach and departure procedures surveillance and failure of air traffic controllers to properly take stock of the ground situation were leading causes of bird hits. “There are numerous issues ranging from mismanagement of airports to failure of ATCs to properly monitor runways, among others, which ultimately pose a serious threat to air safety,” they said.
TIA’s General Manager Birendra Prasad Shrestha also admitted that bird hits posed a serious threat to air safety. “TIA, which set up an Airport Bird Control and Reduction Committee, finalised a proposal several months ago to purchase avian radar but it lacks enough budget to proceed with its procurement plan,” he said. There is an equal need to adopt immediate safety measures at airports across the country to avert disaster, Shrestha said, claiming that minor bird hits keep occurring every alternate day but most of them go unreported. “Migratory, as well as domestic birds, including crows, black kites and eagles, among others, have been creating problems at airports.”
TIA’s senior officials also admitted that CAAN, which often grounds flight crew for different air incidents, couldn’t take any action against ATCs, as most of them have strong political and government connections. “All ministry officials handling aviation matters are also members of Nepal Air Traffic Controller Association and they consider ATC as their lifelong entitlement,” an official told this daily. NATCA President Devendra Prasad Shrestha, however, refuted allegations, claiming that ATCs performed well without compromising on safety standards, though they lacked sufficient facilities by the service provider.
Ignoring all cross-cutting safety issues, CAAN’s top guns are more concentrated on monetary commission that they can easily pocket by approving multi-million-dollar projects, according to an industry insider.