NAC team flying to China to buy aircraft

Kathmandu, December 15

Nepal Airlines Corporation is all set to expedite its process to purchase four more Chinese aircraft by sending a high-level delegation to China. The move comes at a time when both China granted aircraft Modern Ark 60 and Y12E have proved to be white elephant for the national flag carrier.

According to a source at NAC, a four-member team comprising Acting Secretary at Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Suresh Acharya, Airworthiness Engineer at Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal Bidhan Shrestha and two NAC engineers Poshak Gyawali and LB Shrestha - is all set to leave for China on Thursday on a ten-day visit to resume the acquisition process.

“The team will inspect technical specifications of MA 60 in Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation and Y12E in Harbin Aircraft Industry Group and it will further recommend NAC’s board for acceptance of new aircraft,” it added.

A source at Tribhuvan International Airport told this daily that a 17-seater Y12E was grounded for over a month due to lack of instructor pilot, while expensive insurance premium, as well as extensive cost of its spare parts, was bleeding the NAC’s finances since its arrival at TIA in April 2014.

The 58-seater plane hardly made flights for a week in a month while NAC has to deposit Rs 2.46 lakh a day for insurance premium.

According to NAC officials, the management has been compelled to proceed with the past agreement following an immense pressure from the Chinese authority despite its anticipated inability to handle the Chinese aircraft in the coming days.

The government had also formed a high-level committee in June to recommend whether or not to take the delivery of four more aircraft as per the loan and grant agreement worth Rs 6.67 billion signed with the Chinese government.

“The panel has not completed its task yet due to lack of reviewed performance chart of these aircraft,” Acting Secretary Acharya, who is also the co-ordinator of the six-member panel, said.

Though the purchase of civil aircraft by an operator is normally treated as routine business affair, it is an acquisition by the state enterprise under the government to government agreement, of aircraft (both MA 60 and Y12E) with an unenviable record for safety as well as commercial failure that was unsettling, a senior NAC engineer told THT.

“The existing problem with the Chinese aircraft is directly related to the wrongdoings committed on different occasions that range from signing the agreement on airworthiness to issuance of type certificate,” he added.

NAC now operates two Airbus jets, two Boeings, two Twin Otters and Chinese MA 60 and Y12E aircraft.