Kathmandu, December 18
The joint-secretary level aviation experts with plain air traffic control backgrounds at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation have remarkably diverse range of capabilities that keep on expanding, as recent events reveal.
Reliance on hierarchy rather than expertise has been taking a toll on Nepal’s aviation sector. Ministry experts neither qualify as ATCs as their licenses have long expired nor do they qualify as ‘management’ as they do not possess requisite educational credentials.
As a part of technical assistance to Nepal following the European Union’s ban under DFID auspices, the two experts went to Cranfield University, UK, for a two-week training course in aircraft accident investigation.
Strangely, the beneficiaries of the course preferred not to use their new found expertise in the recent runway overrun accident investigation in late October. Instead they chose to visit Montreal for a two-week long jamboree, while delegating the responsibility of member-secretary of the commission to someone untrained in aircraft accident investigation.
One of them has now been entrusted with leading the Nepali delegation to India for a review of air-services agreement as well as negotiating additional airway entry points to and from Nepal.
Presently, the only authorised entry point to Nepal from the south is Simara, which is pretty much congested.
The success of the proposed Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa, and Pokhara International Airport depends on India granting the needed entry point at or near Bhairahwa and Mahendranagar in the far-west.
Under the present circumstances, close proximity of the proposed international airport to the Indian airspace will prevent the Bhairahwa-bound aircraft in the adjoining Indian airspace from descending below the typical 29,000 ft altitude used by flights for international boundary crossing.
Clearly, the Asian Development Bank experts and planners of the project didn’t foresee this, moving the new runway even further south.
Typically, the instrument flight procedures based on ground-based navigation aids require protection area on both sides of the flight path, which incidentally extends into the Indian territory in the case of the present runway in Bhairahawa, according to a senior aviation expert.
It remains to be seen how receptive the Indian side will be to this incursion into their territory.
The recent mission from International Civil Aviation Organisation had voiced its concerns on the glaring duplication of responsibility between MoCTCA and Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal.
Core air navigation services functions like search and rescue, airways facilities, air traffic management that precisely fall in CAAN’s domain as per the CAAN Act have been listed under the job description of the ‘aviation security and CAAN supervision division’ of the ministry.
If indeed the ministry is engaged in carrying out air navigation service related functions, it must be audited by the regulator, the CAAN.