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EC bars Nepali national carriers fly in its zone

Nepali domestic airliners at the Domestic Terminal of Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. Photo: File photo
Nepali domestic airliners at the Domestic Terminal of Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. Photo: File photo

KATHMANDU, Nepal – Amidst the fear that the European Commission (EC) would bar Nepali airline companies fly in its zone following serial air accidents in the Nepali sky, the aviation regulating body in Europe has banned the formers in any operation to its member countries’ sky.

The EC took the decision after the number of air accidents started increasing in Nepal and the regulatory body failed to take effective measures to improve the country’s air safety standard.

The worst fear of the domestic aviation sector came true Thursday after the EC issued statement calling ban for all Nepali airlines from flying in the skies of European Union member countries.

In the statement, EC vice-president responsible for transport Siim Kallas said, “The safety situation in Nepal does not leave us any other choice but to put all of its carriers on the EU air safety list.” This effectively means that Nepali carriers are ‘prevented from flying into or within the EU’.

Officials at the Civil Aviation Authority said that they are yet to receive the formal notification from the EC whether it banned the Nepali national carriers, adding that the decision, if true, will definitely create impact on the national aviation sector.

Meanwhile, the Nepal Airlines Corporation has expressed its unhappiness with the EC for penalizing Nepal-based international operators for mistakes committed by domestic carriers. “The safety issue was related to domestic private airline companies.
Since no Nepali airline other than the NAC flies to the EU, it seems that the latest restriction will not cause damage to business of Nepali carriers. However, flights of national flag carrier NAC are likely to hit by the decision.

So the EC should have considered the point and not included NAC,” Dikpal Subedi, an officer at the NAC said, adding, “The EC’s decision will further hit already slow business of NAC.”

The EC, in its report published in July had said that if the results of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) audit or any other relevant safety information indicate that air safety risks in Nepal are not adequately contained, the union would be forced to take action against Nepal in accordance with regulation (EC) No 2111/2005. It, however, had said that it will wait for the results of an audit by the ICAO before completing its assessment of the safety situation in Nepal.

ICAO’s report on Nepal’s aviation safety status was published on August in which the international monitoring body has cautioned Nepal for taking majors to improve passengers’ safety. However, the EC was not much convinced to the report of the ICAO.

The audit showed that the CAAN was not capable of ensuring effective implementation of international safety standards.

It had pointed out weakness in the areas of air operations, airworthiness and accident investigation, primary aviation legislation and civil aviation regulations, civil aviation organization and personnel licensing and training.

CAAN had invited ICAO’s coordination and validation mission to Nepal this July to validate the corrective measures Nepal has adopted to address and resolve deficiencies the ICAO had pointed out in 2009. The mission carried out an on-site audit from July 10-16.

The EC has already summoned regulatory authorities and private airline operators twice — the latest being in October — to furnish explanation on reasons behind series of air accidents in Nepal and quality of air safety standards adopted by the country.

The commission in its report said that five fatal accidents involving a number of EU citizens have occurred in Nepal involving Nepal registered aircraft over a period of two years (August 2010 – September 2012). In addition, there were three more accidents in 2013.

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