Air navigation services below par at TIA, say users

Kathmandu, May 7

The performance of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal as an effective services provider has been far from satisfactory as airline operators, the principal users of the Nepali airspace, have alleged.

The unsettling frequency of unwarranted air incidents, the latest involving air traffic controllers, who caused an aborted takeoff of a Jet Airways flight two weeks ago at Tribhuvan International Airport and the complete lack of transparency in investigation of such incidents don’t inspire confidence in CAAN’s capacity and the competence of its licensed technical personnel either, according to a senior captain with the International Airline.

As per stipulations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, air traffic control facilities within a state have to be under the authority of a single individual, who is accountable for all aspects of the service. “However, in CAAN, this authority stands utterly fragmented to cater to vested interests of fractious top-level management. While such fragmentation has serious consequences whether it is a unified command and control of the air traffic controller and engineering support professionals in matters of posting, training and promotion,” a senior CAAN executive admitted.

According to him, the promotion regulations have been ill-contrived to provide credit for non-relevant aviation qualifications for rising through the upper ranks contrary to the trend around the globe where formal university level aviation qualifications are sought.

Despite an overwhelming monopoly in the decision making levels, no senior air traffic controller is willing to occupy positions meant to steer the ATC profession. “The continued desertion of core profession by the controllers for other lucrative positions like airport chiefs as well as encroaching into unrelated management positions is hurting the morale of other disciplines in this supposedly multi-disciplinary organisation,” a senior engineer explained.

The failure of the Asian Development Bank-funded project in matters of installation of critical air traffic control equipment at TIA is resulting in near-permanent radio communication difficulties causing untold hardships for controllers and the flight crew. “In this scenario, the unthinkable may happen any time now,” an ATC officer acknowledged.

Repeated reporting of technical problems to the Head Office have gone unheeded, another senior controller said, stating that instead of investigating technical issues, the Head Office is outrageously seeking mere explanations from the TIA management, which is apparently more interested in lucrative procurement and civil works.

When contacted, the regulatory unit for the ATC in CAAN’s Head Office on the other hand blamed the lack of qualified manpower for carrying out functions.

Family junket to New Zealand

KATHMANDU: A three-member team along with family members is now in New Zealand to participate in the Asia Pacific Conference of Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation. According to a source at CAAN, Director General Sanjiv Gautam, Joint Secretary Suresh Acharya from the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation and CAAN Director Birendra Shrestha embarked on a two-week family tour to Queenstown on the pretext of attending a three-day CANSO conference. Apart from spending millions of taxpayers money on family junkets, the participation of non-related office bearers at the jamboree partly explains the continued desertion from the ranks of the regulators, a senior CAAN director said, mentioning that CAAN as a CANSO member was obliged to provide services above the specified benchmark set by pioneering air navigation service providers the world over.