Kathmandu, July 9
The state of civil aviation in Nepal has yet to improve as is visible from continuing discord between the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal and its line ministry — the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation — on the issue of air operator licence, despite the fact that Nepal earnestly invited the validation mission from Montreal seeking relief from the four-year-old significant safety concerns about the country’s aviation sector.
The enabling Act of 1996 authorises the CAAN to issue air-operator certificates, an International Civil Aviation Organisation-specified instrument issued by the state that certifies that an airline is fit to provide safe commercial air transport services.
Likewise, the CAAN also has the powers to revoke the AOC if the operator is unwilling or unable to meet the conditions specified during the issuance.
However, interestingly, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation that issues airline licence, has no provision in its ad hoc procedures to revoke the licence once it is issued to the air operators’ companies, documentary evidence has revealed.
As per Civil Aviation Procedures framed in 2009, MoCTCA issues licence to the air operators’ companies for four years to open aviation businesses ranging from recreational aviation services to international air services.
The grey area MoCTCA left in the provisions promotes impunity, agreed ministry officials. “Such provision basically puzzles a two-member ICAO team which is now in Kathmandu to conduct aviation safety audit.”
Joint Secretary Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane, who also heads the ministry’s Aviation Industry Management Division, admitted that there was a loophole in the civil aviation procedure that barred the ministry from revoking the air operators’ licence.
“The existing procedure has also failed to address several issues relating to aviation companies which obtained operating licence prior to the enactment of the 2009 licencing procedure,” he said, hoping that the new aviation regulation, which is being drafted, will address such serious concerns.
However, what is startling is that this loophole was never realised in the last eight years by the ministry’s aviation officials, who frequent the ICAO conferences at the drop of a hat, a CAAN director commented.
“Clearly, this act of inadvertent omission is for ensuring commission whenever a defunct airline wishes to rise from its ashes,” he said, “Clearly, air safety is the last thing on their mind.”
As of today, nearly 70 licences were issued to different companies allowing them to operate the civil aviation businesses – domestic air services, international services, recreational aviation services, flying schools, maintenance, repair and overhaul services, according to MoCTCA.
“None of the licence got revoked from the ministry till date,” Lamichhane shared.
According to CAAN, only three international and six domestic schedule air operators, nine helicopter services and three recreational services have valid AOC. Three non-schedule operators also obtained certificates.
A version of this article appears in print on July 10, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.