Kathmandu, January 20
China-based AVIC International Holding Corporation — the manufacturer of MA 60 and Y12E aircraft — has expressed commitment to extend required expertise and technical support to the state-owned Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) for uninterrupted operation of Chinese aircraft in the country.
As NAC is going to bring in four more aircraft — three MA 60s and one Y12E — from China, the manufacturer of the aircraft has said that they will extend needful support to NAC. Two Chinese aircraft (MA 60 and Y12E) have already been put in use in the country.
AVIC International has also expressed its keen interest to collaborate with other private players and for the improvement of overall civil aviation in the country.
“We can extend our cooperation in more areas, like hangar construction, airport facility improvement, and staff training, among others,” said Xu Bo, vice president of AVIC International.
Speaking during a programme titled ‘Aviation Cooperation between Nepal and China: Opportunities and Challenges’ organised by Asia Pacific Daily (Xinhua news agency), Xu said that AVIC had posted 13 of its field staff in Kathmandu to train NAC employees to maintain flight operations during the earthquakes of April and May. “The two aircraft played an important role during the earthquakes,” he said.
Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Ananda Prasad Pokhrel laid emphasis on the need to construct other international airports and domestic airports as well to develop a reliable and sustainable aviation system in the country.
Minister Pokhrel opined that development of the second international airport (SIA) in Nijgadh should be given top priority. The project, as per him, would be instrumental in terms of sharing benefits with the Madhes and ultimately bridge the gap between the hills and plains.
He also informed that the government is preparing to conduct proper maintenance and resume the operation of 17 domestic airports that have been closed down across the country. Currently, there are 19 domestic airports in operation. Once the construction of two other international airports — at Bhairahawa and Pokhara — are completed, the country’s tourism sector will take a huge leap forward, according to Minister Pokhrel.
Also speaking in the programme, Ambassador of China to Nepal Wu Chuntai suggested tapping the huge number of outbound Chinese travellers by launching attractive travel packages to Nepal for the growth of the tourism sector.
The number of China’s outbound tourists already exceeds 100 million. More flight connectivity between Nepal and China, along with the completion of new airports will help bring more tourists from the world’s second largest economy, as per him.
Currently, four Chinese airlines have been operating flights to Kathmandu. However, NAC has been operating flights to Hong Kong only. Sugat Ratna Kansakar, managing director of NAC, said that the national flag carrier is planning to operate flights to Guangzhou and Kunming of China very soon.
“One of the major drags for our tourism sector is the expensive airfare charged by international airlines to Kathmandu sector,” Kansakar said, adding, “Once we start operating flights, airfare of Kathmandu sector will be competitive.”
Sanjiv Gautam, director general of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) — the aviation inspector in the country — informed that CAAN is preparing to revisit the type certification procedure in line with the concerns raised by International Civil Aviation Organisation.
A version of this article appears in print on January 21, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.