Kathmandu, August 20

The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, which was raised in the early 2000 for improving the state of country’s civil aviation, has always been held hostage by the political parties holding the Ministry for Civil Aviation, while the standards of safety and passenger amenities continue being gradually eroded.

According to stakeholders, it’s been over three years since the International Civil Aviation Organisation red-flagged Nepal for ‘significant safety concerns’ about airline operator certification and four ministers also assumed the office as well as that of the chairman of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, none cared to spell the roadmap for exiting the ignominious list than being transfixed on digging airports on hills everywhere.

Air accidents also continue to occur with alarming regularity, belying the tall claims of improvements by those in air safety positions. “Nowhere in the world is an international airport regularly subject to inspection by the parliamentary committees and even the Prime Minister,” former board director of Nepal Airlines Ashok Chandra Pokharel said, “that is task best left to professional auditors.”

According to him, the blame for all this mess squarely falls on the regular CAAN workforce, bereft of suitably qualified aviation personnel, inadequately equipped to man highly specialised and diverse positions as a perusal of ICAO’s vacancies for various aviation positions round the globe yields interesting insights into the required qualifications that have not being applied by CAAN.

Whereas the ICAO adverts for that of a wildlife management expert prescribes a university degree in ornithology apart from minimum ten years experience in airport bird hazard studies and in the preparation of control programs, the sensitive positions in Tribhuvan International Airport continue to be handled by former Air Traffic Controllers with no ornithological backgrounds leading to a grim situation, an international airline station manager commented.

The ICAO also adverts for aerodrome engineers as well as airport operations and management personnel seek university degree in civil engineering or civil aviation field apart from the mandatory ten-year experience in the relevant field. “The experience certainly is not intended to be in mismanagement that characterizes CAAN and TIA, where engineering tasks ranging from project design, bid preparation, evaluation and finally work supervision is entrusted to contractors known for their connections and incompetence, while the lucky project directors remain confined to writing cheques and siding with the contractors,” an official at TIA said.

All the while aircraft operations continue at TIA with ever-accumulating rubber deposits for years and runway friction measuring machine mothballed and friction values pulled from thin air, he added.

However, the CAAN system is amazingly efficient when it comes to offering promotions to its technical personnel where by a new entrant is straightway deemed a senior officer who becomes eligible for promotion to a manager in barely three years, a senior CAAN director disclosed, adding that the promotion criteria for its technical personnel have been rendered blunt as a hammer.

On the one hand, it would be irrational to expect an MBBS degree-holder to be elevated to a position meant for a cardio-thoracic surgeon by earning a master’s degree in public administration, while on the other CAAN's practice of vaulting many academic underachievers in technical disciplines to key decision making positions merely based on acquiring the part-time MPA degree is hard to comprehend, the Director shared.

The CAAN’s practice deserves to be emulated by Singapore and the western world where highly expensive degrees are unnecessarily sought for rising-up the aviation ranks in regulator as well as service provider positions in civil aviation while this could also turn out to be beneficial to MPA programme at Tribhuvan University as well, an airline executive concluded.