Nepal | July 06, 2020

CAAN blames NAC for Dubai flight fiasco

Umesh Poudel
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Kathmandu, April 5

The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, the aviation sector regulator, has accused the management of Nepal Airlines Corporation and its pilot for cancellation of NAC’s late Tuesday night’s ready-to-take-off flight to Dubai.

All 285 passengers flying to Dubai had boarded the NAC aircraft that evening and the plane’s door had also been shut to start the take-off process. But all of a sudden the captain announced that the flight had been cancelled and asked the passengers to board off. Passengers were told that the airport had been closing at 10:00 pm since April 1 to renovate the runway and flights could not be conducted beyond that time. Passengers soon started protesting and refused to leave the aircraft.

Later, only 107 passengers went to the hotel arranged by NAC while others remained in the aircraft till 5:00 am before they were forcefully removed with the help of police. The aircraft’s captain, Shrawan Rijal, has blamed the air traffic controller for the flight’s cancellation.

“All decisions related to operation of the airport are taken by aerodrome duty officer, not the ATC,” states the report prepared by the CAAN. “But the officials of NAC based in Tribhuvan International Airport did not coordinate with aerodrome duty officer before cancelling the flight.”

The aircraft, which was supposed to take off at 9.15pm, had arrived at the parking bay from the hangar at 8:29 pm, which was behind schedule, according to the CAAN report, a copy of which has been obtained by THT.

The air traffic controller had been trying to establish contact with NAC pilots since 7:54 pm to move the aircraft from the hangar to the parking bay. The pilots came into ATC’s contact only at 8:14pm, states the report, which was prepared based on instructions issued by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation.

After that the ATC time and again reminded the captain about the airport’s 10:00 pm closure time, adds the report.

The ATC asked the captain to start the aircraft’s engine at 9:37 pm. The captain responded by saying that he would do so in five minutes. The ATC then gave permission to Cathay Dragon to start its engine at 9:47 pm. At 9:49pm, ATC again contacted the NAC captain. But at that time engineers had just fixed a problem in the aircraft’s door. So, the ATC told NAC captain that he would have to wait until Cathay Dragon flight took off before starting its engine. Cathay Dragon flight took off at 9:58 pm. Then the ATC told the NAC captain that he couldn’t allow NAC aircraft to start its engine as it would not be able to complete take-off process by 10:00 pm.

“By 10:03 pm the captain of the aircraft had announced cancellation of the flight without consulting anyone,” states the report. “At that time senior TIA officials were discussing NAC issues. But the captain did not seek their advice.”

The NAC did not disclose the presence of passengers inside the aircraft. The aerodrome duty officer came to know about it only at 4:00 am.

NAC Spokesperson Bijaya Lama blamed airport officials for the fiasco, stating that pilots had been seeking permission to move the aircraft from the hangar to parking bay since 6:00 pm. But the aircraft arrived at parking bay only at 8:25 pm, he said.

“ATC had allowed the aircraft to take off at 9:30 pm. However, the plane could not take off due to technical problems in the aircraft’s door,” informed Lama, adding that the captain of the aircraft sought to take off permission at 9:57 pm, but ATC did not respond to his request and instead allowed the Cathay Dragon flight to take off.

“Had the NAC aircraft been allowed to take off at 9:57 pm, the aircraft could have taken off before the airport closure time,” said Lama.

The government has formed a four-member committee under a joint secretary of the civil aviation ministry to conduct further investigation into the matter.


A version of this article appears in print on April 06, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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