A senior official at the Embassy of Japan in Nepal has claimed that Japan's official development assistance has greatly contributed to improving aviation safety in Nepal.

In an email to THT, Deputy Chief of Mission Yuzo Yoshioka said, "Japan's assistance for the aviation sector is still ongoing and we hope that Japan's assistance will be utilised for the further improvement of aviation safety in Nepal."

In the previous THT article -- NEC Japan takes Nepali Civil Aviation for a ride-- it was implied that the Government of Japan per se was liable for the problems afflicting the air traffic management system being operated by Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal. "GoJ may have systems in place to ensure that the Japanese taxpayer's money is best utilised for the purpose it is actually meant, but it did not achieve its purpose in CAAN's latest Air Traffic Management project execution that remains at best slapdash based on ground facts," a senior official at Tribhuvan International Airport shared, adding, "Typically, the world over, ATC installations have a life cycle of a decade, and any deficiency in planning and execution of the project will result an unsavoury impact for the duration."

Yoshioka, however, claimed that at the time when Japan made a decision to provide its assistance, the Minimum Safe Altitude Warning System had not been introduced yet in the technical standards of International Civil Aviation Organisation, which defines the international standard for international civil aviation operations.

"Even, if the ICAO standardised the features of MSAW in 1999, was it not Japan's obligation to extend the feature to the system it helped commission a year early? More so, when the Japanese planners had implemented the first TIA radar in the wake of the twin fatal crashes of 1992- both involving flights contacting terrain inadvertently-- technically called controlled flight into terrain," TIA official explained.

"In response to the 1992 Thai Airways and Pakistan Airlines crashes, Japan has been providing continuous support for more than 20 years to improve aviation safety in Nepal through the provision of various equipment to ensure the safety of aviation such as radar facilities and dispatch of aviation experts, in cooperation with the Government of Nepal.

At the time of the 1992 air crashes, Nepal didn't have radar facilities," Yoshioka added.

In fact, it is evident from the CAAN's official Aeronautical information publication that even the newer ATM system provided under 2014 Grant doesn't provide the MSAW features required for the safety nets for preventing aircraft approaching terrain in an unsafe manner. While the AIP- Japan's contents under section ENR 1.6 clearly lists the airspace areas over which the safety features are available, the AIP-Nepal's contents remain blank.

Clearly, the MSAW is still not available to the Nepali airspace users.

Thus, if indeed capable and sincere Japanese consultants had been deputed to Nepal for the sound implementation of the newer ATM system, they failed to do so. And so did their CAAN counterpart engineers, who might not have simply possessed the knowledge to oversee the completion of complex ATC system and yet naively signed-off on the acceptance documents handed out by the consultants, according to a CAAN official.

Yoshioka claimed that NEC did not develop software for a radar data processing system for overseas so it proposed the specifications for the system to several overseas manufacturers.

"NEC selected one company based on a comprehensive evaluation of technical and cost aspects. It is not a fact that NEC chose the overseas company to reduce procurement cost."

Besides, while checking with the multiple sources at CAAN, THT has found that the ATM system documentation provided by ALES/NEC does indeed list ADS-B as a type of sensor it is capable of interfacing with.

However, ICAO requirements dictate significant documentation overheads from the ATM system manufacturer – NEC, before ADS-B targets can be used alone for controlling purposes in areas beyond the coverage of the radars.

With the ADS-B installations project undertaken by CAAN remaining in limbo for nearly two years now due to NEC's non-cooperation, it appears unlikely that the project will see completion at all, and so shall be the state of safety in that region of Nepali airspace.

"Regardless of the above-mentioned cases, in general, Japan's ODA projects are implemented only after detailed studies are conducted to maximise efficiency of assistance.

They are based on various guidelines to ensure the appropriate implementation of the projects and to prevent misconduct, and are conducted with a proper procurement process and with the utmost care. In addition, Japan enacts "Rules on Measures against Persons Engaged in Fraudulent Practices in Japan's ODA Projects" which deals with companies and others who have committed misconduct in a very strict manner," Yoshioka claimed.

'NEC selected a company based on one comprehensive evaluation. It didn't choose the overseas company to reduce procurement cost'

A version of this article appears in the print on October 9, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.