Goma Air on Saturday said that it will put its new 19-seater aircraft into service starting next week.
The aircraft will serve the short take-off and landing (STOL) airfield, including tourist sectors like Lukla and Jomsom, with its Czech Republic-made LET410 UVP- E20 aircraft.
Currently, Nepal’s STOL airfields are served by Canadian-made twin turboprop aircraft Twin Otter and German-made Dornier 228. The aircraft manufacturer has said that LET410 will be an appropriate substitution for these aircrafts.
The airline said that it has become the first company in South Asia to purchase the LET410 aircraft that is known for its reliable operation on short unpaved runways. The Nepali registration mark of the aircraft is 9N-AKY. Goma said it has also confirmed order of another LET410 which will be arriving in the country within five months.
Bikash Rana, chairman of Goma Air , said that they would initially focus their operation on short-haul sectors and expand their operation on the long-haul routes gradually.
“As adventure tourism in Nepal is growing at a faster rate due to limited aircraft on the STOL airfield, it has not been able to cope with the increased demand,” Rana said. “Our aim is to fulfill that vacuum.” Besides, airlines are hesitant to serve the remote sectors as the price of modern aircraft is very high for Nepali operators. “Obviously, the brand new aircraft costs $5-6 million and it is commercially unviable to operate on remote areas. But we also plans to operate flights on tourist sectors that will compensate our losses incurred in the remote sector,” Rana added.
Normally, domestic carriers lease second-hand aircraft for operation on remote sectors but there were very few reconditioned planes for sale in the world market that has also resulted in shortage of aircraft with STOL capability for serving Nepal’s remote and mountainous regions.
Goma had successfully conducted the test flight of its turboprop aircraft on the Kathmandu-Pokhara-Jomsom and Kathmandu-Lukla routes last year and was issued the aircraft type certificate by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal. These two routes are among the most challenging airfields in Nepal.
Presently, Goma operates in STOL airstrips of Western and Far-western regions from Surkhet and Nepalgunj base with its two Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft.