Two more airlines get permit to fly

Dikshya Thakuri

Kathmandu, April 19:

The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation granted flying permits to Mero Air and Impro Air today. Their operation is expected to boost the airline sector by increasing air seats and passenger volume. It may be noted the ministry had recently given permits to the Flying Dragon, a Nepal-China joint venture, to operate in the domestic sector. Mero Air is planning to begin its flights to Short Take Off and Landing (remote areas) areas as well as trunk routes to major cities in Nepal with three SAB 340B airplanes. Although Impro Air today received a licence to begin its operation to trunk routes with three Dornier 228 aircraft, it is planning to change its fleet to helicopters and begin services within six months. The Flying Dragon is planning to begin STOL flights with two Y-12 of the second series and one Y-12 of the fourth series.

“Our target is to begin the operation by March next year and we plan to add helicopters to our fleet too,” said Tejendra Sharma, the managing director of Mero Air, adding that the current airline business is favourable for entrepreneurs. However, Pragyan SJB Rana, the chief executive officer of Impro Air, said he had applied for the licence two years ago — at a time when Necon Air was grounded and there were only a few airlines operating scheduled flights. “Now that the situation is different, we hope to change our fleet to helicopters and begin passenger or cargo flights within six months.” The airlines are required to seek the Air Operation Certificates (AOC) from the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) within six months of getting licences from the ministry. Likewise, they should begin their operation within a year after getting AOC from CAAN. Their licences will be scrapped otherwise.

However, Agni Air, which had earlier received flying permits to operate with Beech 1900 G, is seeking the ministry’s approval to bring in three EMB 120 ER aircraft. The ministry has already started the procedure but is yet to endorse their request,” said a source at the ministry. Currently, nineteen domestic airlines, including those flying helicopters, are in operation, while four airlines’ with valid AOCs are not operational. The AOCs of seven airlines have been scrapped. Necon Air continues to remain grounded since August 19, 2003 after failing to clear its dues to CAAN. Bikas Rana, chairman, Airline Operators’ Association of

Nepal, said: “At a time when there is a high demand for air seats, the operation of new airlines is positive.” “It will not only benefit the airline industry but will also help enhance air services and increase the culture of air travel among passengers.”