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Icao experts arrive in Nepal to conduct air safety audit

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Jul 3, 2017-

A two-member expert team of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao) arrived in Nepal on Sunday to monitor the status of corrective measures taken by Nepal to address significant safety concerns (SSC) related to operations and other aspects of the civil aviation sector.

The United Nations aviation watchdog, Icao, monitors Nepal’s aviation safety oversight capabilities through the Icao Coordinated Validation Missions (ICVM). The mission is generally invited by a state when it is fully confident that it has fully complied with international safety standards.

Icao operation expert Captain Eugene Voudri and airworthiness expert Edmund Bohland will begin the much-needed audit of the country’s civil aviation industry from Tuesday, said Rajan Pokhrel, deputy director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan). The audit will end on July 11.

Among eight critical elements of aviation safety—primary legislation, organisation and safety oversight functions, personnel licensing, aircraft operations, airworthiness of aircraft, aerodromes, air navigation system, and accident and incident investigation—four will be audited by the Icao experts. They are legislation, organisation, operations and airworthiness. 

“Icao did not consider it necessary to conduct audits in three areas—personnel licensing, navigation system and aerodromes—as our performance is sound,” Pokhrel said. Accident and incident investigation did not come under the scope of audit due to unsatisfactory progress made by Nepal.

In July 2013, an Icao mission visited Nepal to validate the corrective measures taken by the country to address the deficiencies pointed out by the global aviation watchdog in 2009.

The mission carried out an on-site audit from July 10-16. Unsatisfied with Nepal’s progress, the UN supervisory body had given the significant safety concern (SSC) tag to Nepal’s aviation sector in its audit report in August 2013. 

It had raised the red flag on ‘operations’, among the eight critical elements of safety oversight, due to sharp rise in the number of air accidents and incidents between 2009 and 2012. In those years, at least two passenger aircraft had crashed per year.

Since July last year, an Icao expert has been assisting Nepal on ‘operations’ front under Icao’s Safety Fund that aims to improve civil aviation safety globally. Likewise, experts from the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) has been assisting Nepal to help strengthen its aviation safety oversight since May, as safety concerns have emerged as a key challenge for the burgeoning airline industry. 

The aviation regulator had revoked the Air Operator Certificate (AOC) of 42 airlines since the implementation of AOC-Requirement Regulation 2012. The Caan had issued or renewed AOCs of 19 different airlines in 2016. Among them, 10 are fixed-wing and nine are rotor wing or helicopter operators.

“We are hopeful that Nepal’s air safety credentials will be reinstated,” said Pokhrel. “There could be some minor issues, but we don’t foresee any major issue because a lot has already been implemented as compared to previous audits.”

Nepal had performed poorly in effectively implementation of air safety oversight systems, appearing way down on the safety list among 46 Asian countries. 

The 2013 audit report had pointed out that Nepal’s score of 55.01 percent in effective implementation (EI) of critical elements of safety oversight system was way below the Asia and the Pacific average of 59.9 percent. The EI has now improved to 58.1 percent. 

After conducting the audit, the mission is expected to produce a preliminary report in September. 

Caan decided to invite the audit mission after getting the go-ahead from the Combined Action Team (CAT) of Icao’s Asia and the Pacific office in Bangkok. A six-member CAT mission provided assistance to Caan from November 22-25 last year to evaluate Nepal’s performance in air safety and make preparations prior to conducting the audit.

International airlines and travellers hesitate to travel to a country whose air safety has been questioned by Icao.

Published: 03-07-2017 08:21

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