Did MoCTCA officials fly to Canada at the cost of Yeti excursion probe?

KATHMANDU: Are the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation and the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal hand in glove when it comes to making a mockery of specific stipulations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation on matters pertaining to independence of aircraft accident investigation as recent events have shown?

The recent Yeti Airlines runway excursion at Bhairahawa on September 24 clearly qualifies as an ‘accident’ having incurred significant damage and the probably qualifies for ‘hull loss’ implying the airframe may never fly again, according to a senior aircraft maintenance engineer with Nepal Airlines Corporation.

While ICAO in its Annex 13 clearly describes the accident as a case in which the aircraft sustains damage or structural failure which adversely affects the structural strength, performance or flight characteristics of the aircraft, and would normally require major repair or replacement of the affected component, MoCTCA is solely responsible to probe into such accident.

“But two joint secretaries at MoCTCA, responsible for accident investigation, left for the Canada jamboree  soon after the Yeti Airlines incident in Bhairahawa , foisting the responsibility on CAAN to do the needful, well aware that the independence of the process stands compromised,” a ministry official admitted.

Referring to a discussion with the Minister and CAAN’s Director General Sanjiv Gautam, MoCTCA secretary Shankar Prasad Adhikari also admitted that CAAN was mandated for a preliminary investigation to know the details of the Bhairahawa accident.

As such, the investigation will no longer be deemed credible and inspire confidence in the stakeholders, contrary to the objectives of the ICAO Annex while the world over Civil Aviation Authorities as the regulator are always considered a party to any accident, as it is responsible for the certification of aircraft and its maintenance, crew and the airline itself.

In case of Nepal, with its double role as an aerodrome as well as air traffic control services provider the conflict of interest is even more pronounced.

“Besides, Bhairahawa airport has recently been in the news for all the wrong reasons -- wildlife repeatedly making it to the runway and hitting aircraft -- despite claiming itself as an airport,” a pilot commented, “It might be better called a wild-port.” He further claimed that the only fire vehicle in the Bhairahawa airport was also found dysfunctional when the accident occurred.

Interestingly, one of the joint secretaries who sits on the CAAN board had just returned from Tokyo having attended the ICAO Asia-Pacific working group meeting on accident investigation while the main theme of the meeting was ensuring the independence of the investigation process.

“How MoCTCA was convinced to thumb its nose at ICAO’s recent stipulations so blatantly is beyond comprehension,” an airline operator said.

This was clearly done so that they could embark on the Montreal jamboree unhindered rather than stay back for the investigation, he concluded.

Nepal's Honorable tourism minister Jeewan B. Shahi addressing plenary session in ICAO conference, Montreal Canada. pic.twitter.com/NeTHQzdQ6V

— SugatKansakar (@SugatKansakar) September 28, 2016