Nepal | April 09, 2020

Country’s aviation regulator keeping pilot licencing flaws under wraps

Rajan Pokhrel
  • CAAN does not possess the capability of issuing even a CPL

Kathmandu, August 15

Startling facts keep tumbling out from the closet of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal on matters of public importance, especially air safety, as this daily endeavours to expose the long hidden loopholes in the statutory organisation on aviation regulation.

The anomaly disinterred this time pertains to the reckless and illegitimate issuance of the airline transport pilot’s licence (ATPL) by CAAN.

While the International Civil Aviation Organisation in its annex on personnel licensing has specified stringent criteria for issuing or upgrading the licence for private pilots, commercial

pilots, multiple-crew pilots and finally the airline transport pilots; the practice, however, in Nepal is curiously lopsided, where not only are the instructions being carried out at airlines that are not approved training organisations (ATOs), but also the purported check-rides continue to be carried out by unqualified examiners.

For the issuance of an ATPL, apart from qualifying comprehensive written tests in aeronautical knowledge, the annex provisions require the commercial pilot licence (CPL)-holder applicant to demonstrate to the civil aviation authority’s examiner the ability correct performance of various procedures and manoeuvres in flight as the ATPL is the highest category of licence that enables the holder to command commercial flights and is only granted after a CPL holder has logged a minimum of 1,500 flight hours under various conditions — instrument and night, among others.

As per ICAO, the instructions, theoretical or practical, may only be imparted at an ATO, which is an institute formally recognised for imparting aviation related trainings, especially for flight crew and air traffic controllers, and must demonstrate a comprehensive system of documentation, including stringent quality assurance.

“Not only are the qualifications of check-ride examiners for the issuance of ATPL completely different from that of examiners employed for the issuance of aircraft type ratings, per standard international practices, the examiner must conduct a minimum specified number of ATPL check-rides annually in order to remain proficient at his highly specialised task,” a senior captain with Nepal Airlines explained.

What is amazing is that CAAN does not possess the capability to issue even a CPL that is technically inferior to the ATPL in terms of competence requirements. It merely ‘converts’ the CPL licences issued by foreign states like US, South Africa, and the Philippines, among others, by administering a written CPL-conversion test to the applicants, he added.

With such background, the issuance of ATP licence by CAAN is not only a travesty of ICAO norms but it also provides compelling reasons to suspect the prevailing pathetic state of aviation safety in Nepal. With numerous such technically fake ATPL holders still flying, the Nepali skies are far from safe, an aviation expert exclaimed.

Ideally, like the CPL, CAAN should be ‘converting’ a foreign issued ATPL to a Nepali one by administering written examinations as in most countries. But, clearing an ATPL check-ride abroad is very difficult and therefore this illegal short-cut was contrived by the regulatory body, a senior CAAN executive admitted.

In the past, numerous accident investigation commissions were instituted in the aftermath of air crashes and probably comprised the best possible expertise from every possible source, as per the provisions of the ICAO annex-13 on aircraft accident investigation.

Unfortunately, most of the commissions’ reports on flight crew have stated – The flight crew are properly licensed. “Perhaps, the chairman and expert members comprising the commissions were blissfully unaware of the basics of personnel licensing and many of the members themselves possessed identical dubious aviation credentials,” another aviation expert added.

A version of this article appears in print on August 16, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.

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