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Nepal Airlines to auction last B757 after engine overhaul

- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu

Jan 23, 2019-

Nepal Airlines Corporation will retire its last Boeing 757 after doing an engine overhaul, technically known as C-check, as this can significantly affect the aircraft’s resale value. The state-owned carrier also plans to auction off the Boeing’s spare parts stock worth more than $3 million as it will have an all-Airbus fleet, according to company officials.

Normally, the C-check should be done every 3,600 flight hours or 15 months, whichever comes first. The Boeing 757, named Gandaki and bearing registration number 9N-ACB, is due for a C-check in February-end, which will cost Nepal Airlines Rs200-250 million.

The national flag carrier had planned to put up its last Boeing for auction immediately after the arrival of the Airbus A330s on order, but it dropped the plan following allegations of financial irregularities in the purchase of the wide-body jets. 

Once bitten, twice shy, Nepal Airlines decided to pass the buck to the Tourism Ministry, and let it make the decision about the sale of the Boeing after the wide-body controversy ballooned, even though the management had acted on its own when selling the first 757.

Last week, the ministry told Nepal Airlines to handle the sale itself as it had done before, said Suresh Acharya, joint secretary at the ministry. “The chief of Nepal Airlines has full authority to sell the planes as per procurement laws.” 

Nepal Airlines Executive Chairman Madan Kharel said that they had decided to first complete the engine overhaul of the Boeing. “If we put the Boeing up for auction without the C-check, we will get a lower price,” he said. “But we can get a better price if the status of aircraft is airworthy.” According to him, if the aircraft is sold in its existing condition, the maximum value would be $3 million.

Nepal Airlines has completed a full appraisal of the Boeing 757-200 Gandaki including spare parts and tools. “After the C-check, we will revise the auction value,” said Kharel. “We also have the option of using the plane to carry cargo.”

The carrier sold its first 757 named Karnali to Bhawan Bhatta, managing director of BB Airways, for $1.46 million in December 2017. When the Gandaki, the last of the carrier’s four Boeings, flies off into the sunset, it will mark the end of the Boeing era in Nepal that began nearly five decades ago.

The then Royal Nepal Airlines took delivery of 9N-ACB in September 1988. This special 757, a Combi model, is capable of seating passengers and carrying two pallets of cargo. According to Nepal Airlines, the Gandaki’s frame is the only pure 757 Combi built by Boeing. 

Nepal Airlines entered the jet age in 1972 when it acquired a Boeing 727 and sent Nepali spirits aloft. People would rush to their roof-tops to watch in awe as the sleek craft came in screaming from beyond the hills. Carrying 123 passengers, it connected Kathmandu with regional destinations and remained in service till 1993.

The first Boeing 757 named Karnali and bearing registration number 9N-ACA, arrived in 1987. Gandaki was delivered the following year. The 757 holds 190 passengers. It is a mid-sized, narrow body twin-engine jet built by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. It was in production from 1981 to 2004.

Nepal Airlines decided to sell off its two 757s as it was no longer profitable to fly them due to their high maintenance costs compared to the revenue they bring in, airline officials said. Each Boeing earns about Rs1 billion annually, and it costs the carrier almost the same in maintenance expenses.

The plane’s high fuel consumption is another matter of concern for the state-owned airline. According to Nepal Airlines, the Boeing 757 burns 4 tonnes of fuel per hour, compared to 2.5 tonnes for the Airbus A320 aircraft. The corporation currently possesses two 158-seater A320 jets delivered in 2015, and two 274-seater A330 jets delivered in 2018. 

 

Published: 23-01-2019 09:01

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