Kathmandu, August 10
The recent fatal crash of Fishtail air helicopter in Nuwakot has exposed a gaping hole in airlines operations in Nepal.
In line with International Civil Aviation Organisation stipulations, the issuance of air operator certificate to airlines ensures a high degree of safety to passengers after thorough assessment of the aircrafts’ competence in providing safe and regular service.
“This assessment includes demonstrating adequate organisation, method of control and supervision of flight operations, training programme as well as ground handling and maintenance management, according to aviation officials.
A relevant ICAO standard for conducting flights under visual flight rules states ‘a flight to be conducted in accordance with Visual Flight Rules (VFR) shall not commence without meteorological reports or a combination of current reports and forecasts indicate that the meteorological conditions along the route or a part of the route or in the intended area of operations under VFR will, at the appropriate time, be such as to render compliance with these rules possible.”
Additionally, the same annex also requires enabling the operator’s flight dispatchers so as to furnish the pilot-in-command while in flight, by appropriate means, with information which may be necessary for the safe conduct of the flight.
Besides, it requires the dispatcher in case of emergency to convey safety-related information to the pilot-in-command that may be necessary for the safe conduct of the flight, including information related to any amendments to the flight plan that become necessary in the course of the flight.
Senior captain YK Bhattarai said it would be plain injustice to expect pilots to ensure compliance with these provisions all by themselves, especially when the state of aviation meteorology in Nepal is in tatters and can’t provide reliable forecast as envisaged in the ICAO standard.
“Clearly, the onus also falls on the airline operator that has been authorised to conduct flight operations by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal,” he added.
Besides, pilots are subjected to continuing oversight by CAAN air safety inspectors, who are knowledgeable of the strengths and weaknesses of pilots under their watch but are never held accountable for their inactions.
Repeated helicopter crashes, including the fatal one in 2015 when a chopper hit a power line in Sindhupalchowk, show that airlines continue to violate the VFR norms, Bhattarai said.
The investigation of such disasters in Nepal has been reduced to mere junkets allowing former CAAN director generals and ministry officials to visit foreign-based investigation agencies with flight recorders and engine components for purported analysis, the senior captain added.
Former CAAN DGs, despite appointment as Chairman of the commission remain accountable to none.
Interestingly, in the aftermath of the fatal crash of Skyline Airlines aircraft in December 1999 near Simara, the investigation commission formed under a former Department of Civil Aviation DG Hari Bhakta Shrestha never submitted the report to the then government.
“Ironically, he has been entrusted the responsibility for investigating the Fishtail Air crash,” a senior MoCTA official revealed.
A version of this article appears in print on August 11, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.