Lack of workforce planning casts shadow over future of Nepal's aviation sector

Kathmandu, January 28

There seems to be no end in sight to the travails of Nepal's aviation as the state-run aviation institutions like Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal and Nepal Airlines Corporation continue to be beset with bungling management and inept workforce, according to stakeholders.

On the one hand, the CAAN is fixated on getting out of the International Civil Aviation Organisation and European Union's safety bad books without bothering to get the basics of air safety or airport management right, while on the other the NAC remains focused on acquiring wide-body aircraft deserting its obligations on quality ground-handling and optimum utilisation of existing aircraft, they said.

"Contrary to ICAO's mission of focusing on 'next generation of aviation professionals,' the two entities continue to remain focused on short-term ‘instant gratification’ goals without bothering about long-term objectives."

The proposed induction of A330 aircraft would diversify the national carrier’s fleet even further with accompanying liabilities and handicaps that would soon be questioned by the ICAO and the EU, a former NAC board director feared.

Besides, owing to the faulty human resources planning practices like rapid promotions, arising from union-influenced politics, a large fraction of the technical workforce at CAAN has now been elevated to middle-level management positions sans any formal management qualifications whilst leaving gaping holes in operations, a senior CAAN director said.

According to him, these promotions have resulted in senior air traffic controllers and maintenance personnel deserting their technical domains at their primes — just as they were getting ripe for training the 'next generation' on the job. Clearly, the level of training and proficiency at job therefore remains questionable as evident by unending flight delays as well as equipment and facility outages.

Domain expertise at CAAN is hard to find whether it is civil engineering, air traffic management planning, air traffic management equipment maintenance, aeronautical information services, aerodrome operations and engineering or even aviation security. "This is clearly evident by the lopsided ratio of CAAN staff attending ICAO seminars and meetings to that of the miniscule number of papers presented by Nepal at such gatherings despite its top-heavy organisational structure," another CAAN official added.

The ICAO stipulations on the regulator having controls over appointment at sensitive positions are intended to ensure that safety is not compromised while appointing chiefs of operations, training, engineering, quality assurance, and flight safety. "Knowing pretty well that such qualified key personnel are hard to find, at least in Nepal, CAAN continues to issue air operator certificates to new operators who clearly intend to poach the limited resources from their rivals."

Stating that someone’s gains over other's losses are not a win-win situation for Nepal's aviation, an aviation expert commented that even NAC's struggle to post several key personnel was pathetic, given its ambitions to acquire wide-bodies.

Clearly, even now, air safety continues to take a back seat for CAAN and NAC, while the chief executives of the two entities aim for higher goals, goaded by the aviation minister with a purported aviation background, who mindful of his fleeting term, is all too fixated on building his legacy, the expert concluded.