KATHMANDU: Three of Nepal Airlines Corporation’s aircraft — Airbus 320, Modern Arc 60 and Boeing 757 — have been grounded at Tribhuvan International Airport, incurring a huge loss to the state-owned carrier.
According to Flight Operations Department of NAC, China-granted MA 60 aircraft had to be grounded after technicians noticed leakage in its fuel booster pump last week.
The 58-seater aircraft had to be grounded on over a dozen occasions earlier, as the Chinese manufacturer delayed supply of spare parts. “Resumption of MA 60 operation is unpredictable,” a technician said. NAC has to deposit Rs 2.46 lakh a day towards insurance premium alone since its arrival at TIA on April 27 last year.
NAC officials said the Chinese supplier was uncooperative and often demanded an unaffordable amount for spare parts. A source at NAC said it had already replied to Aviation Industry Corporation of China through the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation that it would not receive four more aircraft as per the inter-government deal and the ministry had also been asked to decide on the matter at the earliest.
As per the loan and grant agreement worth Rs 6.67 billion, China pledged an MA 60 and an 18-seater Y12E on grant and an MA 60 and three Harbin Y12E on concessional loan.
Not only the MA 60, newly brought second A320 jet has been grounded since May 30 after its belly skin near a nose wheel gear spotted a gouge after hitting the graveled runway unit, NAC sources said, adding that two airbus jets had also been making huge loss due to lack of pilots. “We are not sure when A320 will resume its operation,” an official said.
According to sources, one of the age-old Boeing 757 aircraft has also been grounded for three days after a battery cart handled by marshalling wing hit its nose wheel steering actuator on the parking bay. “After maintenance, the aircraft, however, was released for operation tonight,” a duty officer at TIA said this evening. The shortage of flight commanders also hit Boeing operations, he added.
Referring to the Boeing incident, a senior NAC captain told this daily that mismanagement on the part of TIA ground handling section adversely impacted not only the flight operation but also the air passengers. “The new Managing Director has a tough task at hand to reshape the fragmented operating structures of NAC,” he added.
NAC management has also been under pressure to repay nearly Rs 350 million within the next couple of weeks to Employees Provident Fund as part of its high interest loan acquired to buy two narrow-body Airbus jets, according to an industry insider.
The national flag carrier now has two A320 jets, two B757 aircraft, an MA60, a Y12E and two Twin Otters.