CAAN honchos still continue to fly high on foreign junkets

Kathmandu, June 25

The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal is indeed a house in disorder.

While higher officials at the aviation regulatory body use their positions to board international flights, others down the chain resort to political influence.

Thanks to CAAN’s top heavy structure, the director general is far too stretched balancing his six deputies with deputations to lucrative positions such as general manager of Tribhuvan International Airport.

Nomination for foreign junkets is one area in which the six deputy director generals lock horns, while addressing the woes of passengers and airlines takes a back seat.

The result is that Nepal’s aviation safety and standards continue to flounder with repeated air accidents and CAAN’s inability to vacate the shame list designated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the European Commission since more than three years.

With nomination for foreign junkets continuing to be the norm, higher management officials at the aviation regulatory body disregard all ethical norms and tenets of good governance.

A business class flight to Vancouver by CAAN’s deputy director general Raj Kumar Chhetri and air traffic management department chief Teknath Sitaula to attend the global Air Traffic Management Summit and Annual General Meeting of the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation are just some examples.

As per the government’s guidelines, civil servants and officials are barred from business class travel during official visits to foreign countries. “This disregard for guidelines also points to the culture of exacting unjust favours from service providers. This is worrying,” a senior official at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation said.

If the concerned airline had refused to upgrade them, retribution would come in the form of unfavourable arrival time slots, parking bay assignments and harassment, said a manager of an international airline.

An example of our high-flying CAAN honchos is Director General Sanjiv Gautam’s family visit to Queenstown, New Zealand last month for the CANSO Asia Pacific conference. “The chief of CAAN attends a regional conference whilst his deputy attends a global summit. This is ludicrous,” said a source

Insiders say this indicates the degree of statutory autonomy enjoyed by CAAN and its higher ups in helping themselves even as aviation safety and standards continue to flounder.

While CANSO prides itself on creating value for airlines and setting global benchmarks for air navigation services providers, CAAN is not a declared air navigation service provider. “A monopoly, with the director general as the chief executive, CAAN continues to slide down its own benchmark, let alone the worldwide benchmark that CANSO talks about.”

The anarchy and impunity at CAAN knows no bounds as is evident from yet another case of the nomination of DDG Mahendra Singh Rawal who is retiring after three months, for a workshop on competency-based training for air traffic controllers and maintenance personnel in Montreal from June 28-30.

DDG Devendra KC, chief of the department for foreign nominations, had applied for a two-week course in Singapore in aviation leadership. His nomination was rejected by the foreign government agency because, he had done the same course a year ago and Singapore doesn’t entertain requests for a ‘refresher’, according to a CAAN official.

For an organisation known to operate its training academy with an expired licence and also for producing controllers with dubious credentials, trifling with training of sensitive positions hardly comes as a surprise.

Aviation safety improvements, for now, will have to take a back seat as CAAN honchos tend to explore the unexplored.