EDITORIAL: Hitting turbulence

Nepal Airlines Corporation’s aircraft will become a white elephant if the management fails to improve its efficiency

Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) on Thursday received the second wide body 274-seater Airbus-330 with a view to putting it into long distance commercial operation. The first wide body Airbus was brought to Nepal on June 28. But the first wide body aircraft has remained idle due to procedural delays as well as lack of adequate pilots, crew and detailed plans of flight operation in major destinations. NAC Managing Director Sugat Ratna Kansakar had earlier said that they would start first commercial flight of the first wide body aircraft to Doha from August 1. Now, after the second aircraft touched down the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) on Thursday, Kansakar has now said NAC would start the operation from “first week of August”, a sign of further delay. NAC has now five aircraft in its fleet – three narrow body aircraft and two recently brought wide body aircraft – for the long haul operations. NAC had reached a 24-billion rupee deal with Employee Provident Fund and Citizen Investment Trust to purchase the two wide body aircraft in April 2017 after the government stood as a guarantor to repay the loan at 12 per cent interest rate. With the five aircraft in its fleet, NAC is in a comfortable position to operate international flights to major destinations.

However, NAC’s management side is so pathetic that even the general public has already started raising eyebrows as to whether the national flag carrier will be able to pay back the loans by operating regular flights in the identified destinations efficiently. The longer the aircraft remain grounded for one or the other reason, the more the losses for NAC. Therefore, every minute counts. Now Kansakar is blaming Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) for not being able to operate the international flights, saying CAAN’s delay in issuing air operator’s certificate. It seems he is passing the buck to others. Even the officials at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation are also unhappy with the current management for grounding aircraft.

NAC’s inefficient management and poor planning of operations are the main reasons behind the national carrier running at perennial loss despite the government’s strong backing. In a clear sign of sheer inefficiency, NAC management has just published advertisements for pilots and sought landing permit. It started other procedures only after the second aircraft arrived, one month after the first one. The NAC management knew when the two aircraft were to be delivered the moment it put the purchase order one year ago. It should have hired and trained the required number of pilots before their arrival. NAC, which has earned a bad image for inefficiency for decades, cannot afford to bear further financial loss if it aims to grow as a profit-making aviation industry. NAC has also landed in a fresh controversy for receiving the delivery of under-capacity aircraft. This issue should be properly investigated by an independent and competent authority. The ministry should also launch an enquiry over the delay in hiring pilots and completing other required procedures. NAC aircraft will become a white elephant if the management fails to improve its efficiency.

Landslide risk

Amidst dust and heat, monsoon brings much-needed relief. But with monsoon rains come floods along the plains and landslide risks in the hill areas. According to reports, dozens of human settlements in Bajura are at high risk of landslides. Landslides triggered by incessant rainfall have unleashed terror among locals. As many as 42 families in Bajura have left their homes at Gumlagaun of Chhededaha Rural Municipality.

There is a need to keep vigilance and put rescue measures in place so as to save lives. An earlier report said that haphazard construction in Bajura has been contributing to more landslides in various parts of the district. Of late, dozers and excavators are being used in every part of the country for what is described as “development”. Yes, roads are necessary, as they are lifelines of economy. We need roads also for emergency rescue. But haphazard construction of roads as well as other infrastructure also can trigger natural disasters like landslides. Authorities must be cautious while carrying out development projects. In the meantime, all concerned should focus on safety of the people in those settlements which are vulnerable to landslides.