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NAC can’t find pilots to fly Chinese planes

  • Skilled labour shortage
- Post Report, KATHMANDU

Jun 14, 2018-Nepal Airlines Corporation’s (NAC) new Chinese-made planes look like they will remain grounded indefinitely as the carrier still has not been able to find pilots to fly them. NAC’s latest attempt to hire Sri Lankan pilots also ended in disappointment as the candidates did not possess the necessary qualifications.

According to NAC officials, they started looking for pilots in Sri Lanka after finding out that the Sri Lankan Air Force also flies the Y12.

“The pilots we were trying to get from Sri Lanka didn’t meet the requirement set by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan),” said Rabindra Shrestha, spokesperson for NAC. “Obviously, we are in trouble because it’s difficult to get flying crews. But we are still looking.”

NAC’s two shiny 17-seater Y12e aircraft have been sitting in the hangar at Tribhuvan International Airport for the past five months. Earlier, the state-owned carrier had moved to hire three Chinese pilots following instructions from Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari to have the planes in the air by June. But the plan hit a stumbling block as the commercial pilot licences (CPL) possessed by the Chinese pilots were only good for flying helicopters in Nepal. The plan was subsequently abandoned.

Pilots need to hold an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL), the highest level of aircraft pilot certificate, to fly multi-engine planes in Nepal. To obtain the ATPL, a pilot has to complete 1,500 flying hours besides receiving necessary training. NAC has not been able to fly its new Chinese-made planes for lack of qualified pilots since they arrived in February. NAC has produced only three captains and an instructor pilot to fly the Y12e aircraft in the last three years. However, out of the four captains, one has resigned, one has taken leave and another one has not updated his flying licence.

In 2014, when the first batch of two 17-seater Y12e aircraft arrived in Kathmandu, they remained on the ground for more than two months for lack of pilots. NAC received another two Y12e aircraft in February. The national flag carrier now has four Y12e aircraft in its fleet, but only one captain to fly them.

NAC owns six Chinese aircraft, two MA60 manufactured by Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation and four Y12e manufactured by Harbin Aircraft. Of these six aircraft, an MA60 and an Y12e are gifts.

The annual report of the Office of the Auditor General said that the corporation had been operating the Chinese-made MA60 aircraft incurring losses of Rs66.7 million annually, while its losses from the Y12e amount to Rs39.4 million annually.

“The corporation does not seem to have made a solid working plan to operate these aircraft at a profit,” the report said. Although the corporation has targeted flying 9,168 flights in the domestic sector annually, it has been operating 4,538 flights only. The corporation’s expenditure has increased which has resulted in less income, the report said.

Published: 14-06-2018 08:02

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