Air safety clean chit a far cry for Nepal: ICAO

  • There are loopholes in the part of operation oversight and organisational capability of CAAN

Kathmandu, January 30

Senior experts of the International Civil Aviation Organisation have warned the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal not to conduct the United Nations Aviation Agency’s final audit in haste, saying that the country’s aviation sector was unlikely to get air safety clean chit any time soon.

Experts’ warning comes at a time when the aviation regulatory body claimed that it was all ready to conduct ICAO Coordinated Validation Mission by July to remove the significant safety concerns that ICAO designated in 2013 which immediately inspired the European Commission to blacklist country’s aviation sector barring all Nepal-based air carriers from flying into the 28-nation bloc of the European Union.

According to a high-level source at CAAN, Chief Technical Advisers for South and North Asia regions for the ICAO’s Cooperative Development of Operational Safety and Continuing Airworthiness Programme, who wrapped up their a week-long pre-ICVM today, clearly stated that it was too early for CAAN to invite final validation mission, as there were significant loopholes in the part of operation oversight and organisational capability of the aviation regulator-cum-monopoly services provider for air traffic management, as well as aerodromes.

During their stay in Kathmandu, South Asia’s CTA Captain Marie Helene Zubryckyj and North Asia’s CTA Captain Wayne Chapin, held series of discussions with the high-level officials at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, CAAN officials and representatives of three air carriers - Nepal Airlines, Himalaya Airlines and Shree Airlines. CAAN’s Director General Sanjiv Gautam, however, said he didn’t meet CoSCAP experts.

CAAN’s existing capability and working style couldn’t ensure the sustainability of the progress merely made in the documents until two responsibilities – service provider and aviation regulator – were separated, ministry officials quoted experts as saying. “The experts have also given CAAN six months to prepare a concrete work plan to mend its existing working style, as the existing organisational capability and working nature at CAAN, they noted, couldn’t deliver in the future.” According to experts, CAAN would have to consult international experts for a few months to review the certification process of the country-based international air carriers, including Nepal Airlines. “CAAN’s capability on flight operations oversight is still below par as per the international standard.”

MoCTCA’s Acting Secretary Sadhuram Sapkota, who met the visiting experts, said separation between regulatory and service provider was an urgent need to remove SSCs on Nepal’s aviation sector. CAAN officials, however, blamed the ministry for delaying to implement a detailed report prepared by international experts to separate such dual roles.

“It’s all because of the ministry’s negligence.”

The UN aviation organisation had cited a number of deficiencies in regulatory oversight ranging from airworthiness to flight operation or implementation of accident investigation recommendations to personnel licensing in Nepal. ICAO generally takes four to five months to send its mission to conduct the final audit after formally receiving invitation from its party nation.

It is highly unlikely for CAAN to invite ICAO’s final validation mission by July, a senior CAAN executive agreed, adding that two ICAO experts under the air safety fund would, however, be arriving here on February 5 to help enhance CAAN’s capability on personnel licensing and airworthiness oversight.