CAAN plays foul with flight crew licensing


Alarming violations of basic aviation safety norms keep emerging as this daily continues its pursuit of the truth behind the worrisome state of civil aviation in Nepal.

The newly unearthed fact relates to licensing of flight crew or pilots.

International Civil Aviation Organisation has stipulated stringent training and licensing requirements for flight crew on whom expensive aircraft and lives of passengers are entrusted, but lack of proper crew management has ever been the hallmark of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal.

It is often months or even years before a pilot here finds employment with an airline

Aviation licenses, unlike academic degrees, are not lifelong entitlements. They require compliance with licensing regulations of the issuing countries. This involves medical fitness, flying currency ie, performing three take-offs and landings every 90 days.

“In the absence of flying schools in the country, Nepali pilots train abroad. Upon completion of training at flying schools, they have to clear the licensing examinations, both written and flight check, conducted by the aviation authorities like the Federal Aviation Administration and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, among others,” he added.

Once home there is no way pilots can maintain the licensing requirements of the issuing state. “Besides, to fly a Nepal registered aircraft, a pilot requires a CAAN-issued Nepali flight crew licence after clearing a licence conversion written examination. Naturally, much is at stake for pilots as they attempt to clear the final hurdle.”

Interestingly, allegations of crafty machinations in the conduct of these examinations have not gone unreported. “Besides, as is the practice abroad, only a current FCL may be converted,” an aviation expert added.

It is often months or even years before a pilot here finds employment with an airline. By then, the licence will have lost technical validity in terms of currency. “Besides, the instructor pilots are basically type-rating instructors for aircraft like J41, B1900 and ATR-42 and are not certificated to train or check new recruits for the level of proficiency required under the provision for commercial pilot licence, or CPL with instrument rating licence at the approved training organisations.”

Type-ratings are additional endorsements on the FCL authorising the holder to fly advanced aircraft requiring multiple flight crew. Besides, flight training on such aircraft can cost upwards of US$3,000 per flight hour compared to a mere $200 on a Cessna. The airlines cannot be expected to to spend  on any additional training, an airline owner admitted.

So, in effect, we end up with a combination of a ‘rusty’ first officer on the right hand seat ‘flying’ with a captain with an identical dubious background who ends up being a mere witness in almost all past air accidents as investigation reports state, a senior CAAN executive conceded.

CAAN’s Deputy Director General Rajan Pokhrel however said the aviation regulatory body is preparing to strictly enforce currency rule for licensing from January next year.

“CAAN has already introduced some corrective measures, including mandatory provision of frozen Air Transport Pilot Licence among CPL holders.