Recent chopper accidents and incidents related to aviation after the April earthquake have yet again exposed the failure of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal to standardise its flight operations requirements, especially on pilot training and licensing.
Though Annex 1 of the International Civil Aviation Organisation clearly states that the approved training organisation can only issue the type ratings to the flight crew certifying them to command any specific type choppers, CAAN does not have the ATO for such task, according to a senior CAAN official.
As per CAAN’s current practice, a fresher having a commercial pilot’s licence can join any chopper operating companies and obtain training on his/ her own. Interestingly, CAAN also sets a requirement of minimum of five hours of flight training for initial type conversion in single-pilot helicopters, but has not clarified how can such trainings be all enough for the trainees to have type rating on initial, recurrent, conversion and upgrade ground trainings.
For instance, how an AS350-B2 rated or fresh CPL holder can be easily entrusted to jump into another type chopper being that a BELL-Jet Ranger 206B III-9N-AII or AS 350-B3+ without thoroughly checking the minimum requirements by the ATO’s instructor pilots, an aviation expert said.
“Are the instructor pilots at CAAN equally qualified to grant respective type ratings to all CPL or air transport pilot’s licence holders?” a senior captain with a private airlines wondered. Whether it is the ICAO raising significant safety concern or European Union’s ban on airlines under the safety oversight of CAAN, the management of regulatory body often eyed for million-dollar projects rather than doing its bit for the improvement of air safety standards, he added.
According to a source, private helicopter operators on Tuesday urged CAAN’s Director General Sanjiv Gautam and Safety Department Chief Bhesraj Subedi among other senior officials to improve the regulatory practices for safety improvement at the earliest. The meeting was called by CAAN to discuss recent air accidents and incidents.
On May 12, a US Marine chopper went missing while in rescue operations. It was found crashed near Charikot three days later, with all on board dead. On June 2, a chopper belonging to Mountain Helicopters Pvt Ltd crashed in a jungle in Yamuna village of Sindhupalchowk. All four on board, including the pilot, were killed. The chopper had crashed after hitting a transmission line. Yesterday, a chopper belonging to Simrik Air crashed in Samagaun of Gorkha while taking off. No one was killed, but the chopper was completely destroyed.
“CAAN is reviewing its flight operations requirements for helicopters by forming a committee led by senior captain Gunj Man Lama,” one of the participants of the meeting quoted CAAN executives as saying in the meeting.
Licensing of personnel or services implies enforcement actions in case of non-compliance with stipulated conditions extending from reprimand to revocation of the licence.
“The dichotomy, however, is evident when CAAN boasts of numerous enforcement actions on licensed pilots and aircraft maintenance technicians with many airlines, it finds itself at a loss of words when the details of its licensed personnel within the organisation against whom enforcement action has been taken in the past is sought,” he added.
A version of this article appears in print on 24 Jun, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.