Commercial flights unlikely any time soon
Nepal Airlines Corporation’s ambitious plan to deploy its new China-made aircraft to trigger a price war in the domestic aviation sector is unlikely to materialise anytime soon, as the state-owned airline company has not been able to get the required permits to put the plane into commercial operation due to lack of instructor pilot and experienced engineers.
NAC had imported 58-seater MA60 on April 27 to bolster its domestic operations.
Soon after its arrival, NAC had caused quite a stir in the aviation sector by announcing a plan to reduce domestic air fare by as much as 50 per cent.
But after creating that hype the airline company has not been able to do much, and is still making rounds of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, the civil aviation sector regulator, to upgrade Air Operator Certificate and obtain air worthiness certificate and radio mobile licence.
“NAC has to follow all the procedures carefully as they are directly related to air safety. So, we will not allow MA60 to begin commercial operation unless we are convinced that the aircraft is capable of conducting safe flights,” a senior official of the CAAN’s Flight Safety Standards Department told The Himalayan Times on condition of anonymity.
NAC said it had so far not been able to complete many of the formalities, as most of the documents were locked up in the new aircraft, which until yesterday was under the control of the Customs Department due to delay in clearance of customs duty.
“But after payment of around Rs 20 million — loaned by the government — in customs duty yesterday, we have now been given access to the aircraft and have obtained many documents,” NAC Spokesperson Ram Hari Sharma said.
Yet these documents alone will not pave the way for NAC to make commercial use of the aircraft, as it still needs to appoint an instructor pilot and experienced engineers — two other factors directly related to air safety.
NAC has been pushing Avic International Holding, the MA60 manufacturer, to send an instructor pilot certified by the Chinese civil aviation regulator, but these efforts have so far gone in vain due to inability to find a trainer with English language skills.
“As per international civil aviation rules, including Nepal’s, an instructor pilot must have Level 4 English proficiency,” another official of CAAN’s Flight Safety Standards Department said.
But Sharma said the Chinese company still has not been able to find an instructor pilot, who has the said English-language skills and experience in flying MA60.
“Once the instructor pilot is appointed, NAC pilots, including captains, will have to accompany the person for at least 100 hours of flight, after which NAC pilots can start flying the new aircraft on their own,” the CAAN official said.
The CAAN is expected to oversee this process carefully, as the European Commission had recently denied removing Nepal’s aviation sector from its blacklist citing lapses in pilot licensing.
The CAAN is also expected to closely monitor appointment process of engineers, who are authorised to conduct maintenance work of MA60, as they are considered vital agents for ensuring flight safety. CAAN officials said NAC was yet to appoint such engineers who would have to train Nepali engineers for at least six months. However, NAC’s Sharma said six Chinese engineers have arrived in Nepal.
Lots yet to be done
• NAC yet to find instructor pilot with Level 4 English proficiency and experience in flying MA60
• NAC yet to appoint engineers to train Nepali engineers for at least six months
• Till Sunday the plane was under the control of the Customs Department with all the documents locked inside
• NAC will have to upgrade its Air Operator Certificate and obtain air worthiness certificate and radio mobile licence