A mission from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will be providing technical assistance to Nepal to support its efforts to remove the significant safety concern (SSC) tag given by the International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao).
According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan), a five-member team is scheduled to arrive on May 4. It will assist Nepal to resolve the deficiencies pointed out by the global aviation watchdog and support the corrective measures adopted by Caan to ensure safety.
Icao monitors Nepal’s aviation safety oversight capabilities through the Icao Coordinated Validation Missions (ICVM). International airlines and travellers hesitate to travel to a country whose air safety has been questioned by Icao.
On December 5, 2013, the European Commission (EC) had put all Nepali carriers in its bad books for the worst record of air safety oversight based on Icao’s safety audit.
The EC has asked European operators and travel agents to inform European travellers who will have a right to reimbursement if they had booked a seat on a Nepali carrier as part of a journey to Nepal and decide not to use it.
The travel advisory by the EC warning its citizens not to fly on Nepali airlines dealt a severe blow to Nepal’s tourism. Domestic airlines operators said that the EC, which has blacklisted Nepali carriers for being unsafe, has deterred travellers from using domestic airlines.
Japan and South Korea recently decided to block new flights from Thai-registered airlines after similar safety concerns were raised by Icao.
An Icao mission had visited Nepal in July last year to validate the corrective measures taken by the country to address the deficiencies pointed out by the global aviation watchdog in 2009. The mission carried out an on-site audit from July 10-16, 2013.
Unsatisfied with Nepal’s progress, Icao had given the SSC tag to Nepal’s aviation sector in its audit report in August 2013. Icao has grave concerns about Nepal’s air safety, and has placed it among the 12 worst performing nations.
“We have planned to invite the Icao revalidation mission by December this year. By this time, Nepal should have addressed all the deficiencies pointed out in its audit report,” said a Caan official.
The mission is normally invited by a state when it is fully confident that it has fulfilled all the compliances with international safety standards. Caan officials claimed that significant improvements had been made in pilot licensing and air operators’ certificate (AOC) requirement, the major safety concerns pointed out by the audit.
“The Icao re-validation mission will be crucial as we won’t be able to remove Nepali carriers from the EC’s blacklist unless the SSC is eliminated,” the official said.
Nepal has performed poorly in effectively implementing air safety oversight systems, appearing way down in the 37th position out of 46 Asian countries, according to the safety audit report of Icao. The audit report shows that Nepal has received a rating of 55.1 percent, much below the Asian average.
Among South Asian countries, Nepal is ahead of the Maldives (rating of 54.7
percent), Bangladesh (50.5 percent) and Bhutan
However, Nepal trails behind Sri Lanka (87.3 percent), Pakistan (84.6 percent) and India (79.1 percent).