Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) has decided to return the Chinese-gifted MA60 aircraft if China does not address problems the plane has been facing, NAC officials have said.
The MA60 plane arrived in Kathmandu on April 27, 2014, but was forced to take an extended rest at Tribhuvan International Airport. The aircraft was put into service in July, 2014.
Since then, the aircraft has been grounded for at least two months at different times.
The plane has been grounded once again since Tuesday.
The NAC board has approved the plan, and the management is scheduled to forward a letter in this regard to the Tourism Ministry on Monday.
NAC officials said the aircraft has been insured until April 2015, and if the problems were not sorted out, the corporation is unlikely to renew the insurance coverage, meaning the plane would not take-off.
The corporation said if the existing problems remain unsolved, it would be forced to review its decision to acquire four other aircraft (three Y12e and a MA60), which are scheduled to be delivered in the near future.
In the letter to be dispatched to the ministry, the corporation has included four issues—landing and take-off weight or aircraft performance, insurance premium, timely delivery of spare parts and cost of spare parts—to be sorted out jointly by the two countries forming a high-level government panel.
Under the landing and take-off weight, the national flag carrier said the aircraft is not capable
of carrying passengers at full capacity—an issue not informed during the aircraft deal.
For example, the 56-seater aircraft can accommodate 54 passengers from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport, but during its return from smaller airports like Bhadrapur, it has to cut the passenger number to 34. The problem is mostly seen during summer due to temperature and runway length.
Another China-gifted Y12e aircraft also has the weight problem. The aircraft has 200kg excessive weight that has forced NAC to cut the number of passengers by at least three individuals.
The second issue is high insurance premium. “As the insurance premium is too high even for a brand new aircraft, we will be requesting the Chinese side to insure the aircraft themselves as they have extensive global network of insurance companies,” said an NAC official requesting anonymity.
NAC has been paying 4.7 percent of the aircraft cost in insurance premium, or Rs 250,000 per day. For a brand new aircraft, the insurance charge is normally less than 2 percent. The third issue that NAC has asked to sort out is untimely delivery of spare parts. “Due to the delay in the delivery of spare parts from China, we are forced to take an extended rest even if a small part of aircraft becomes defunct,” said the official.
NAC said it has proposed a “flight hour agreement” with the aircraft manufacturer to ensure timely delivery of spare parts. “Under the agreement, NAC will pay the spare part costs like insurance premium and the company will deliver the parts.”
Besides untimely delivery, hefty costs of the spare parts is another matter of concern.
“We have proposed listing the spare parts cost in a package through a negotiation, so that the prices do not fluctuate massively every time NAC has to procure them,” the official said.