Nepal | March 29, 2020

Is ATC skill enough to hold engineering group posts in ministry?

Rajan Pokhrel

Kathmandu, July 9

This daily’s unrelenting investigation of afflictions that bedevil the nation’s civil aviation sector continues to spring surprises.

This time the issue has to do with the base qualifications of key aviation personnel at the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal and Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation.

When CAAN separated from the government in 1999, MoCTCA continued to maintain two joint-secretary levels and a handful of subordinate positions under the civil aviation operations and engineering services group. The move was supposedly intended to allow the ministry to retain a few aviation experts for supervision of CAAN and conduct aircraft accident investigation.

But, the required qualification for entry to the ‘engineering’ group continues to be graduation in any discipline and completion of basic air traffic control training. “ATC training with a predefined limited scope has ultimately been turned into an escalator for reaching the highest policy making positions in CAAN and MoCTCA,” stakeholders said.

According to them, the fact that an engineering group listed in the appendix to the Nepal Engineering Council Act does not require an engineering degree indicates the gross indifference and incompetence of office bearers at NEC that prides itself as the statutory body for the engineering profession.

Besides, the critical ATC training provided in line with the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s standards on personnel licensing at the Civil Aviation Academy is not an academic course conducted under a university’s affiliation with necessary academic safeguards, but the ICAO standard’s silence on the duration of the training has resulted in the production of controllers with varying shades of training — six to 18 months in the past.

“Now who would you consider a true controller,” a ministry official wondered. “If the one is chosen the rest are all fake certificate holders then,” he added.

This daily had earlier reported on the pathetic state of the academy that has produced several batches of controllers even as it holds an expired licence.

The recent case of Nepal police, with CAAN’s tacit consent, prosecuting a Goma Air pilot who purportedly presented a fraudulent ISc degree to CAAN, despite possessing valid pilot credentials from an ICAO contracting state, draws a parallel here. “The ICAO has no requirement of any academic degree for awarding a pilot’s licence, let alone an ATC licence,” a senior airline pilot confided.

Entry into the CAAN training programme virtually guarantees a permanent job in CAAN, as the number of job openings equal the number of trainees produced. “The selection of trainees for the programme has not been controversy-free either, especially, recently, when five batches were produced within a year, in the name of urgency,” a CAAN director said, adding that it naturally reeked of nepotism and corruption, and merited a thorough investigation by the anti-graft body on matters including any clandestine financial dealings by those in positions of authority.

Clearly, with identical work force comprising mainly jack-of-all-trades type ‘experts’, in both CAAN and the MoCTCA, it is extremely unlikely that Nepal’s civil aviation will improve any time soon, another airline executive claimed.

ATC training

KATHMANDU: Reputed aviation  training institutes like Singapore Aviation Academy are frequented by  CAAN and MoCTCA officials for short term aviation courses. However, the  fact that the same SAA offers post-graduate course in air transport and  aerodrome engineering in association with world renowned aviation  universities for producing professionals for leadership positions in  various sectors of the air transport industry, including civil aviation  administrations, airport authorities, air navigation service providers,  goes unnoticed while employee regulations for promotion are repeatedly  amended and credit continues to be granted for any irrelevant  qualification.

A version of this article appears in print on July 10, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.

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