Kathmandu, April 3

The government has formed a four-member committee to investigate over the cancelled flight of Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) on Tuesday night. As per NAC, the flight bound for Dubai was ready for take-off at 9:47 pm, however the air traffic control (ATC) of Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) halted the flight citing notice to airmen (NOTAM) regarding the runway extension work.

As TIA has started runway extension work it has stopped flight operation for 10 hours from 10 pm to 8 am for 45 days. According to Vijay Lama, spokesperson for NAC, flight RA 231 bound for Dubai was ready for take-off before the NOTAM comes into effect.

However, ATC stopped the flight. The aircraft with scheduled flight time of 9:15 pm was at RA hangar and the corporation had sought permission from ATC since 6 pm to take the aircraft to the parking bay.

“Captain Shrawan Rijal was seeking permission since 6pm but the international flight operation department of TIA gave permission only at 8:30 pm,” Lama said adding, “All crew members were onboard at 8:35 pm and soon after the flight service items were onboard passenger boarding had started,” said Lama. “By 9:35 pm the aircraft had completed boarding passengers and refuelling was also completed by that time.”

After the engineering clearance at 9:45 pm the aircraft doors were closed at 9:47 pm when Captain Rijal asked ATC for pushback. “We didn’t get permission for pushback as Dragon Air was also there on the runway and had already started pushback,” Lama said, adding after that Captain Rijal asked for four extra minutes as they could take-off within four minutes. Then Dragon Air departed at 9:57 pm.

However, despite several requests NAC was informed that there is no authority of extension and pushback cannot be granted. There were 190 people on board including cabin crew in the aircraft.

“This is a highly irresponsible behaviour of the ATC. If the NOTAM was about to begin they should have informed us not to board the passengers,” he said, “But as they had already allowed us to board passengers they could have given us four extra minutes to take off.” He further said that this incident has not only affected NAC but has also bothered passengers.

As the national flag carrier, TIA should have given first priority to NAC. “It is not only about NAC but also about those passengers who were accommodated in the nearest hotels late night,” Lama added. He further said that NAC will soon disclose the loss incurred due to the cancelled flight as a result of the irresponsible behaviour of the concerned authorities.

“The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has to take the responsibility of this reckless decision,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Sanjiv Gautam, director general of CAAN, said that they are conducting an investigation into the incident. “NAC says that it had time to take-off while ATC has said that the NOTAM had already begun and that could not be cancelled,” he said, “So, now we are investigating the issue and we will have a report on it soon.”

A committee led by Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane, joint secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, has taken statements from both the ATC and NAC today. The report may come by Thursday evening, he said.