Money

TourMin gets tough on single-engine aircraft

- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu

Mar 8, 2016-

The Tourism Ministry has stopped registering new single-engine aircraft following the crash landing of an Air Kasthamandap P-750 XSTOL on February 26 in which its two pilots were killed.

A minister-level meeting on Sunday also decided to ban passenger charter flights by single-engine planes pending a report by a government probe panel, said Joint Secretary Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane.

The five-member committee led by Lamichhane consists of an official and single-engine captain from the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) and two members representing private airlines.

“We have been asked to submit a report within 15 days. We have to say whether passenger charter flights by single-engine aircraft should be allowed or not besides making safety recommendations,” Lamichhane said.

There are five single-engine aircraft currently operating in Nepal. Goma Air and Makalu Air have two each and Kasthamandap Air has one.  

“It’s a hasty and unduly harsh decision to ban registrations of new single-engine aircraft,” said Bikash Rana, chairman of Goma Air. “The Kasthamandap crash landing was unfortunate. However, the ministry’s abrupt decision prompted by an unusual mishap and taken without considering the opinion of experts will jeopardize investments.”

Rana said that single-engine aircraft could safely glide to the ground if it loses power. “There have been few cases of casualties involving single-engine aircraft in the past many decades.”

There have been three accidents involving single-engine aircraft in Nepal after the government adopted a liberal aviation policy in 1992. A Pilatus Porter of the then Royal Nepal Airlines on a cargo flight crashed in Syangboche in November 1998, killing one.

In January 1999, a Necon Air Cessna Caravan crashed and caught fire soon after take-off at Jumla Airport. Of the 12 people on board, four passengers and a crew member were killed. The government banned single-engine aircraft following the series of accidents.

The light plane returned to Nepali skies in 2008 after Maoist leader Hisila Yami became tourism minister. The government took a bold decision to bring them back.

Single-engine aircraft are known for their short take-off and landing (STOL) capabilities on any type of terrain. A STOL plane needs only 195 metres of runway to take off, and it can stop within 130 metres on landing while carrying a payload of 1,500 kg.

Single-engine aircraft have a history of more than 50 years in Nepal. A PC-6 Pilatus Porter provided support to the first successful ascent of Dhaulagiri in 1960. Swiss pilot Emil Wick flew a Pilatus Porter in the high Himalaya for the first time in the 1960s.

After the liberal aviation policy, more private players started using single-engine aircraft. The now defunct Necon Air was the first private carrier to fly the Cessna Caravan.

After the government reopened Nepali skies to single-engine aircraft, Air Kasthamandap became the first to acquire a licence to operate them. It re-introduced the Swiss-made Pilatus Porter in Nepal.

The government’s decision was based on the premise that single-engine aircraft were suitable in a mountainous country like Nepal.

As single-engine aircraft incidents occurred more frequently in the Karnali region where they are used to carry cargo, the government made it mandatory for each plane to have two pilots.

As Nepal’s domestic carriers are having a hard time enlarging or replacing their ageing fleet as the good old Twin Otter is difficult to come by in the international market and Dorniers cannot operate in remote terrain, the decision will make things difficult for single-engine operators, aviation experts said.

Published: 08-03-2016 11:51

User's Feedback

Click here for your comments

Comment via Facebook

Don't have facebook account? Use this form to comment