Kathmandu, March 27 The recent US-Bangla crash at Tribhuvan International Airport has hinted at glaring air safety issues, including a gaping hole in assertions from the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal about the recently commissioned radars under Japanese assistance purportedly for enhancing air safety. This air safety enhancement initiative, worth a billion rupees of Japanese grant, somehow mysteriously failed the UBG-211 flight under the Instrument Flight Rules as it flew below safe altitude by not providing safety alerts to the controller, according to an official at TIA. According to normal practices, the minimum safe altitude warning alert is an automatic radar system safety feature that is intended to provide aural and visual alert to the controller in case an aircraft in his jurisdiction descends below a safe altitude. The controller then is required to advise the flight crew with standard communication phrases, something that is found missing in the air-ground communication records. A TIA controller on condition of anonymity, recalled how outage in critical air-ground communication equipment had led to several cancelled flights in the recent past, adding that the maintenance of the critical communication navigation and surveillance systems at TIA were less than satisfactory and repeated calls for timely rectification go unheard. Besides, what is appallingly evident from the transcripts is the unprofessional manner in which the Kathmandu tower ATCs handled an IFR flight that was not adhering to its standard flight path. As per standard ICAO procedures, the change of an IFR flight to a visual one can only be effected by a standard radio message initiated by the pilot-in-command. “While an IFR flight is conducted with reference to instruments in cockpit along with appropriate procedural safeguards to enable adequate terrain clearance in all its phases such as take-off, cruise and approach, the ATC training and proficiency standards in their core area are sub-optimal at an ATC-majority organisation,” a senior captain shared. Interestingly, in the aftermath of the crash when the CAAN’s who-is-who’s were crying themselves hoarse, stating that the regulatory oversight of the carrier in question rests solely with Bangladesh, they were losing credibility by wilfully distorting facts about Nepal’s safety oversight obligations provided under the relevant International Civil Aviation Organisation’s annex for performing safety oversight of foreign operators, he revealed. The fatal crash has, however, ceased to make it to headlines within merely two weeks of its tragic occurrence, with the task of handling its aftermath delegated to the investigation commission and the victims’ families, a senior CAAN official said, adding that the commission, as per ICAO Annex 13, is only mandated to reveal the probable cause and provide recommendations for preventing future recurrence. Clearly outside the purview of the investigation panel, the acts of omission and commission by the various actors in the handling of the ill-fated flight and its fiery end, of the aviation services providers for air traffic control and the aerodrome — CAAN, and that for meteorological services — Department of Hydrology and Meteorology also appear destined to be swept under the carpet, stakeholders feared. According to them, had it not been for the public availability of the air to ground communication records of the crash that has led to numerous raised eyebrows in Nepal and abroad about the conduct of the ATCs, it was a foregone conclusion that truth would remain buried as in past crashes.
US-Bangla crash hints at glaring safety issues
Published: 10:30 am Mar 28, 2018