The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) has granted a temporary reprieve to domestic airlines failing to comply with international safety standards and renewed their air operator certificates (AOC) for a one-month period on Tuesday.
The carriers have been left off under the condition that they fulfil the safety oversight standards prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao) within a month, said Caan’s Director General Ratish Chandra Lal Suman.
Although, the deadline to renew the AOC ended on Tuesday evening, the revalidation process of the 16 errant airlines including the national flag carrier was begun at 10:30 pm on Tuesday and was completed at 1:30 am on Wednesday.
Buddha Air, Yeti Airlines and Tara Air were the only airlines to get their AOCs revalidated for one year as the documents submitted by them satisfied the level of compliance prescribed by Icao.
As different airlines have different deficiencies, Caan has asked them to correct their respective deficiencies within a month, Suman said, adding that Caan accepted their entreaties for leniency as they promised to comply with all the standards set by Icao. However, sources said that Civil Aviation Minister Bhim Prasad Acharya ordered Caan’s director general to give the airlines extra time as grounding all of them would have led to havoc. Carriers are not permitted to fly without an AOC.
Caan became more stringent with regard to issuing or revalidating AOCs after international auditors said that its records of the certification of air operators were not complete enough to substantiate the approvals granted to Nepali air operators.
Subsequently, Caan undertook a revalidation process for each airline to have adequate records of evaluation, inspection and demonstration of a comprehensive revalidation, it said.
Icao has put Nepal in its list of significant safety concerns as audit findings have pointed out weaknesses on issuing or revalidating AOCs.
On Dec 5, 2013, the European Commission (EC) put Nepal in its air safety list as it found Nepal lacking the ability to oversee aviation safety issues. An EC delegation later carried out an on-site inspection of Nepal’s civil aviation sector in February to reassess whether it should be kept on the air safety list for a longer term. However, Nepal’s inspection report was not considered for discussion at the Aviation Safety Committee meeting held on March 25-27 in Brussels, Belgium. The next meeting is scheduled for November.
Caan needs to send a progress report on major issues pointed out by the EC by Sept 15. If they are satisfied with the improvement Nepal has made, particularly in operation, air operators certificate and pilot licensing, there are chances that the ban will be lifted.
“As we have to send our progress report to the EC by Sept 15, the airlines have assured us that they will comply with the procedures set by Icao within a month,” Suman said. “If not, the airlines will lose their operating licences.”
NAC’s MA60 grounded again
Nepal Airlines Corporation’s (NAC) newly acquired MA60 was grounded again on Tuesday after resuming operations on Sunday.
NAC said that the Chinese-made turboprop had to be grounded after its radar system sustained a technical problem. The radar on the aircraft allows operators to detect and track targets and locations. NAC spokesperson Saroj Kasaju said they had ordered equipment from China to repair the radar and that the aircraft was expected to be in the air again after July 20.
The MA60, received as a gift from China on April 27, was slated to start commercial operations on May 15 but it could not happen after NAC failed to complete the paperwork, including de-registration of the China-issued registration number or tail number.
The plane finally began commercial operations on June 25. However, it was grounded shortly after on June 29 when it suffered a bird hit in the right engine while preparing to land at Biratnagar Airport.