Aviation safety continues to be neglected

Kathmandu, May 26

At a time when the Minister for Culture Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari is about to embark on his maiden trip to the headquarters of International Civil Aviation Organisation early next month to receive the ICAO Council president certificate for remarkable achievements in civil aviation in 2017, things actually do not appear rosy at home, stakeholders said.

The minister alighting from a Shree Airlines CRJ700 aircraft for the inaugural flight on Thursday at Rajbiraj airport, where heavy construction equipment including asphalt plant were placed adjacent to the runway, clearly shows the utter lack of safety awareness by the airlines and the aerodrome operator-cum-air safety regulator, according to officials. As per ICAO safety regulation, the area around an active runway must be clear of obstacles lest the aircraft experience a runway excursion during landing or take-off and collide with it.

Interestingly, safety compliance is the last thing on the incumbent minister’s mind as he advocates the same relentlessly for media coverage. Tribhuvan International Airport started 21-hour operation early this week. Here, too, according to sources, safety assessment,  including effect of fatigue on operational personnel, for extending the operations hour was not undertaken, as mandated by ICAO stipulations.

Clearly, the CAAN trade unions and quasi-unions like the controllers’ association were also simply interested in getting themselves additional incentive that the minister obliged, while consigning air safety concerns to a back seat, a senior CAAN official shared. Similarly, the recent fatal crash of a Cessna-208 near Simikot once again harshly bears the hallmark of the controlled flight into terrain, a type of accident that has plagued Nepal’s aviation for long now.

“In the aftermath, as usual, yet another investigation commission has been instituted headed by a former CAAN director general with a ministry joint-secretary as the member secretary of the commission,” a MoCTCA official said, adding that the findings and probable cause for this investigation, that doesn’t inspire confidence, too, were a foregone conclusion — flight crew’s decision to enter instrument meteorological conditions without adequate safeguards in place. “Interestingly, when the member secretary has his hands full investigating the US-Bangla crash, having recently visited Canada for the purported decoding of the black-boxes that were supposed to contain the truth pertaining to the crash, his attention to a less sensational crash is clearly suspect,” he added.

Besides, in the absence of publication of any new bulletin on new developments by the US-Bangla probe commission, it is abundantly clear that the aircraft didn’t suffer any malfunction and the crew was not under the effect of any psychoactive substance. “Otherwise, an interim recommendation would have been promptly shot off to prevent the re-occurrence of another crash,” an aviation expert shared.

The investigation is headed for a ‘human factors’ angle, a discipline in which expertise is not available in the third world and therefore the findings and the probable cause of the crash will be a bone of contention between Nepal and Bangladesh, he quipped.