Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu,June 30:

It has been a long, chequered road for Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation (RNAC), the national flag carrier, that is completing 47 years on July 1, 2005. Following the adoption of liberal market policies by the government in the aviation sector, the airlines is facing a tough competition for its survival as private domestic as well international airlines are making strong forays into Kathmandu. The corporation has been serving domestic and international segments despite facing numerous handicaps in terms of logistics. Despite such odds, RNAC has till recently was the only prop of the aviation sector in Nepal, making significant contributions to the national economy. However, the development of the airlines also depends on the growth of the national economy, which has been rather dismal in the last few years.

Over four decades of unstinted service, the airline has experienced triumphs and tragedies, upheavals and successes, according to RNAC. Nepal’s aviation history started with a single RNAC DC-3 aircraft from Gaucharan in 1958, literally a cow-grazing field then. Initially, RNAC started its service with limited flights to Patna, Kolkata and Delhi in the international sector and to Simara, Pokhara and Biratnagar in the domestic sector by which period it had three DC-3s.

Commenting over the completion of 47 years, Rabindra Man Singh, first ticket seller of RNAC, who is also the former president of Nepal Association of Travel Agents (NATA) says, “RNAC is a national pride for Nepal which started airlines service in the country. It is surviving today even with a few aircraft.” When I sold the first ticket of RNAC on the domestic route from Everest Travel Service, we were very optimistic about airlines’ future progress, Singh said.

Despite the slow progress, it is surviving and there are more challenges in front of it following the declaration of the open sky policy. Singh said 47 years ago, tickets to Simara would cost Rs 25 from Kathmandu, which now stands at Rs 1,210. As a state-owned airline, it provides services to the public but it has not been producing sound financial results, said Singh. Only forming various committees will not do any good unless action is taken at a higher level, he suggested. Talking about the performance of RNAC in recent years, he said, “Government’s intervention has stunted the growth of the airlines.”

With the rising number of national and international airlines joining the aviation field, RNAC has tough days ahead. It will be absolutely necessary for it to have an effective mechanism in place to cope up with the new challenges, opined Singh. “Not only that private sector people who are on the board of directors of RNAC, have failed to come up strong reforms for the national flag carrier,” he complained. Operating with DC-3s, the airlines went for an international route in 1960s and quickly moved on to the Turboprop F-27. “The commissioning

of the sturdy Twin Otter and Pilatus Porter aircraft into RNAC fleet in 1970 brought a swift and easy way of reaching many remote and rugged regions of the Kingdom. By early 1970s, the airline had introduced Hawker Siddley HS 748 turboprops and entered the jet age with Boeing 727s in 1972, after the Kathmandu runway had been extended for medium-sized jet operation. Later, Boeing 727s were gradually phased out with Boeing 757s. Currently RNAC operates on 10 international routes such as Bangalore, Bangkok, Delhi, Dubai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Osaka, Shanghai and Singapore in South East/Far East Asia and Dubai in the Middle East. In the domestic sector, it connects more than 30 destinations from Kathmandu and from its regional hubs in Pokhara and Nepalgunj.

Moving on

•1958 — One DC-3

•1960 — Onto international route with

Turboprop F-27

•1970 — Twin Otter and Pilatus Porter aircraft

•Early 1970s — Hawker Siddley

HS 748 turboprops

•1972 — Boeing 727s

•Boeing 727s phased out with Boeing 757s