NAC’s wide body planes create chaos at TIA

Kathmandu, July 29

While top brass of the Nepal Airlines Corporation takes pride over recent fleet acquisitions, notably the Airbus 330 wide-bodies — Annapurna and Makalu — purchased from Portugal-based Hi-Fly and not directly from Airbus, the country’s sole international airport, owned and operated by Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal has descended into chaos.

As the NAC aircraft idly occupies yet another precious parking bay meant for larger wide-bodies pending nod to its operations from the regulator, it is the other airlines, some operating for decades that are bearing the brunt of Nepal’s aviation entities’ sheer clumsiness, causing unnecessary delays and financial losses resulting from air holds, according to airport officials.

While the NAC’s managing director with engineering background sits on the CAAN board for long, there is little that he has done enough to ensure TIA’s aircraft parking infrastructure adequacy in time to park additional acquisitions without any disruption of normal flight movements at Tribhuvan International Airport, an international airlines representative reacted.

However, a little the MD did was to take the TIA’s general manager to Toulouse on NAC’s junket so as to buy his acquiescence for extracting a rare parking slot for the new aircraft, he quipped. “Now the NAC’s top brass is busy making tall claims of flying to Sydney and London without realisation of the fault line beneath.”

Apart from the European Union’s ban on Nepali air carriers under the safety oversight of CAAN that NAC seeks to palm off as CAAN’s burden, the other issue is that of compliance of standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation related to flight following, a senior NAC captain revealed.

According to him, the ICAO holds the pilot-in-command as well as the flight dispatcher – licensed aviation personnel on ground with constant communication with flight crew for matters relating to the safety and regularity of flight —  together for flight safety.

“Established airlines worldwide operate what is called the operations control centre or network operations centre for the purpose at significant costs.”

Despite a history of Boeing 757 operations to Europe and Japan in early good days, NAC could not establish a proper OCC/NOC for over three decades since the B757s were first inducted, the captain added. “Of course, the state of oversight by foreign regulatory bodies then was lax and NAC managed to get away with it, which, however, is not the case now. The NAC’s ground operation is unable to communicate with its fleet in air, except for perhaps the newer aircraft,” he claimed.

Countries like China and Australia issue foreign air operator certificate to scheduled carriers from abroad after a rigorous audit. While receiving a slot from an airport — a commercial entity — is easy, but getting the state’s permission to operate is not, regardless of signing Air Service Agreements, a CAAN official said.  “The delay in getting permission to operate to China’s airports from its regulator- Civil Aviation Administration of China - is an adequate proof that it is no longer a trifle.”

The personal presence of secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation in signing the revised ASA with Japan may not translate into NAC’s smooth operations to Japan anytime soon, he added.