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Airport space crunch hits Alpine’s flying plans

  • Saturated capacity
- Post Report, Kathmandu
The parking capacity at the country’s airports has hit the saturation point, as most of the airlines have added bigger aircraft despite infrastructure hurdles

Jan 11, 2018-The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) has denied issuing air operator’s certificate (AOC) to now-defunct Alpine Air that plans to take to the skies again. The aviation sector regulatory body took this decision at a time when it has been saying the country’s sole international airport’s capacity has hit the saturation point.

Alpine Air had recently filed an application at the Tourism and Civil Aviation Ministry to renew its license to begin international flight operations. The ministry had then sought the regulator’s view on the proposal. The issuance of licence enables airline companies to initiate the process of obtaining AOC from the Caan. The AOC, in turn, allows airline companies to use aircraft for commercial purpose.

“We have clearly stated to the ministry that the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) will not be able to accommodate more aircraft for at least two years, or until the Gautam Buddha International Airport is built,” said Rajan Pokhrel, deputy director general of the Caan. “We have written to the ministry accordingly.”

The civil aviation regulator’s response is an indication that new airlines, including Alpine Air, will not be able to obtain the AOC until the TIA’s upgradation project is completed or new international airport is constructed. According to Caan officials, the already saturated airport will see addition of two new Airbus A330 ordered by Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC). Private carrier Himalaya Airlines also plans to expand its fleet this year. The Caan will face a big challenge in accommodating these new aircraft in the severely congested airport, which has only nine parking bays.

However, Shree Airlines, which has also sought licence to start international flight operations, will not face a problem in getting the permit. This is because “Shree will use the aircraft present in its fleet to conduct international operations”, officials said. Recently, a study on ‘airport capacity declaration’ conducted by the Caan had recommended complete halt in issuance of new AOC until the airport infrastructure is upgraded.

The parking capacity at the country’s airports has hit the saturation point, as most of the airlines have added bigger aircraft despite infrastructure hurdles. For instance, 2017 saw induction of at least a dozen of aircraft in the domestic sector. Among them, four were 50- to 70-seater Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) series aircraft; three were 72-seater ATR; and one was 58-seater MA60 twin-engine turboprops. The domestic operators have ordered more aircraft this year, as demand for air travel has continued going up.

The report shows that there is potential risk of minor and major accidents on the ground due to overcrowding of the aircraft. The growing traffic congestion on ground and air has been adversely putting pressure on air traffic controllers, pilots and airlines operational staffers, the report said. 

It is also creating safety hazards for passengers and making a routine delay in departures and arrivals. The report said that delays caused by congestion have been eroding the credibility of airports and airlines.

Alpine Air had obtained international operating licence and AOC in 1998, but failed to launch its services despite several renewals of license and AOC.

Its AOC was revoked in 2013 following enforcement of the revised AOC Regulation, which requires proposed carriers to put their fleet together to get the operating permit.

Published: 11-01-2018 08:46

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