Aviation rule exemptions: CAAN flying it a wrong way?

KATHMANDU: The antics at Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, the statutory autonomous body for the aviation sector, continue to be worrying enough to keep the attention of this daily riveted. This time the matter pertains to grant exemptions to parties under its regulatory oversight.

Though Rule 82a of the Civil Aviation Regulations 2002 allows the director general to grant exemptions on technical requirements for operators, aerodrome as well as air navigation services related operations, the waivers so granted are contingent upon adequate safety risk assessment that demonstrate that aviation safety is not adversely affected. Besides, instances of such exemptions are intended to be made public on grounds of transparency.

However, in actual practice, the application of the rule has been found to be quite contradictory and is rather secretive in nature. Clearly, this lends credence to the accusations that something fishy is indeed going on, an industry watcher observed.

According to a high level official at the regulatory body, CAAN’s technical requirements on matters of airworthiness and aircraft operations are based on standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation that are often a rehash of the practices at Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency, from where the aircraft are usually sourced.

Exemptions on matters of flight crew as well as air traffic controller training and licensing continue to be a matter of grave concern, as serious safety deficiencies are brushed aside with nonchalance by the custodians of aviation safety in CAAN. The conduct of type training on specific aircraft types by air operators as well as the continuation of air traffic control training at CAAN-owned civil aviation academy — both of which are not approved training organisations as per ICAO standards on personnel licensing — clearly indicate that CAAN continues to be an unworthy custodian of the venerated ICAO norms on aviation safety, that are only invoked in speeches, according to an aviation expert.

It is rather content granting unsafe exemptions on flimsy grounds based on the inspector’s individual predilections-monetary or conflict-of-interest and often on instructions from ‘above’, a senior director at CAAN acknowledged.

NAC restricted to VFR

KATHMANDU: The aviation regulatory body has instructed the state-owned Nepal Airlines and other two private air operators to restrict their flights only into visual flights rules, as they failed to install enhanced ground proximity warning system (EGPWS) on their aircraft.

The same rule has also been applied to Simrik Air and Sita Air as both have not installed the system, CAAN officials said.

Though the relevant ICAO standard specified in January 2007 as the deadline for the installation of EGPWS on aircraft like Twin-otter and Dornier — the work horses to remote airports— necessary equipage is yet to be completed. The EGPWS equipment is deemed to be necessary for avoiding controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) accidents that unfortunately are fairly common to Nepal, where an airworthy aircraft under the control of its crew members inadvertently contacts terrain, often with disastrous results.

Clearly the CAAN has exercised its authority by granting the exemption to NAC on this count but has dismally failed to implement the remaining provisions of the rule, an engineer with another private airline noted.