Bird strike during Airbus takeoff exposes loopholes inside Tribhuvan Int’l Airport

Kathmandu, July 16

The recent grounding of Nepal Airlines aircraft (Airbus 320) due to a bird strike during takeoff at Tribhuvan International Airport has once again highlighted the sloppy aerodrome operations conducted by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal.

While the safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation apply essentially to aspects of the aerodrome to ensure safety of aircraft and flights and provide specific stipulations on wildlife management, failure of the airport on both counts - unsafe runway conditions (mounting rubber deposits) as well as non-existent wildlife management - indicate abysmal management practices that are a reflection of safety culture at CAAN.

“The ill-fated Airbus, which makes a daily turnover of over 100,000 dollars, has been grounded since July 7 after suffering major damage to its right engine. The question, however is, who should be held responsible for the loss,” an NAC pilot questioned, referring to failure of the airport authority to keep the runway free of birds at TIA.

An international airline station manager said TIA chooses to mow grass little realising that this is mowing down aircraft and airline profits, while many international airports deliberately maintain long-grass on unpaved surfaces of the aerodrome to deter birds from accessing the ground.

Interestingly, CAAN has been sending its bird expert with Air Traffic Control background to seminars, workshops and study visits across the globe; and what’s more, in view of their achievement, it has also promoted one to the post of project director of the Second International Airport project, a TIA official revealed.

Various bird-scaring devices at TIA and other airports are mostly in a state of disrepair and disuse having lost utility once the procurement process got over and the profits were shared and the foreign trips got over.

Nepal Airlines Corporation has forwarded a litany of complaints to CAAN regarding the recent bird strike, but that is it.

The NAC managing director sits on the CAAN Board and is responsible for CAAN’s acts of omissions and commissions, but he should not be whining, another airline executive added.

An international airport has to have a functioning safety management system whereby accountability and procedures are established for operations according to the aerodrome manual. This is missing in TIA’s manual, said an aviation expert.

TIA devours the lion’s share of CAAN’s expenditure and is a lucrative office for the high and powerful at CAAN. “CAAN officials at TIA are more interested in escorting VIPs and diplomatic staff, issuing restricted area passes, procurement and other works, while less important issues like aerodrome safety take a back seat, bird strikes or not.”