Despite remaining on the European Commission's ban list for eight years, the continuing pathetic state of civil aviation in Nepal shows no signs of abating.

The latest issue being the National Vigilance Centre's investigation report on prevalent malpractices in the Nepal Airlines Corporation, indicting top guns of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, the statutory regulator, and NAC, the national flag carrier.

The air operator certification requirements are issued and enforced by the director general of CAAN in order to meet Nepal's obligations to the ICAO - a specialised UN body responsible for coordinating aviation safety globally - for ensuring that the airline is deemed fit to operate safely.

"In fact, airline certification was the key issue for which the global body had held Nepal under its significant safety concern list for over four years before letting go in 2017," a former air safety inspector at CAAN told THT.

Contrary to the provisions of the requirements governing appointment of operations director, a key responsible technical position at NAC, the NAC top brass chose to turn a blind eye to fundamental safety regulations in cahoots with the air safety regulator, the report has bluntly observed.

CAAN director general's consent is mandatory for appointment to the position, where the prerequisites are a blemish-free conduct record of the individual in the preceding three years. The operations director is tasked with conducting flight operations at the carrier in accordance with detailed laid out procedures, while not being distracted by the hourly perks accompanying line flying, as is the practice abroad at reputed airlines, mostly retired pilots take over this management duty after hanging their boots.

The appointment of a relatively inexperienced pilot to the position in 2019 with an immediately preceding history of regulatory enforcement for conducting an unauthorised low visibility landing reeks not only of favouritism within NAC, but also indicates a worrisome trend of the regulator toeing the line of the airline that it is mandated to regulate, the NVC report stated.

With politics and factionalism being the key speciality of overstaffed pilots at NAC, the prevailing internecine rivalry among factions, hasn't drawn the regulator's attention so far.

With senior expatriate pilots choosing to focus on line flying duties, there is no one around to bring about an air of discipline among the unruly that can potentially have disastrous consequences, as some recent incidents have indicated and reported by this daily.

"When a former CAAN director general is assuming the key role of maintenance quality assurance chief at another jet operator, and, interestingly, having gotten the position vetted by his brother-in-law who serves as the chief of airworthiness at CAAN, it is unrealistic to expect things to be any better in Nepal," an NAC senior pilot told THT.

According to statkeholders, just as the Governor of Nepal Rastra Bank is prohibited to assume any position at any commercial bank after demitting office, the MInistry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, charged with supervising CAAN, has never bothered to take a hard look at the inappropriate practices prevalent at CAAN. "And yet, the prime minister naively expects CAAN to get off the EC ban list any time soon."

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