Ban on Nepal: Are our skies safe?

Ban on Nepal: Are our skies safe?

Nepal is banned from European skies by European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) since December 5, 2013 following Significant Safety Concern (SSC) issued by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization).A SSC shows that state/country is not providing sufficient safety oversight to ensure the effective implementation of applicable ICAO Standards. ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program (USOAP) audit of May 2009 identified a SSC in the area of aircraft operations in Nepal. Again ICAO Coordinated Validation Mission (ICVM) was carried out in July 2013.Nepal’s effective implementation of ICAO Safety Standards was observed to be 55 percent which is below than the global average of 60 percent.

The ICAO audit is focused on eight areas:

  1. Legislation and Regulations
  2. Organization & Safety Oversight Functions
  3. Personnel Licensing
  4. Aircraft Operations
  5. Airworthiness of Aircraft
  6. Accident & Aircraft Investigations
  7. Air Navigation Systems
  8. Aerodromes

The figure shows the current status of Nepal in ICAO Safety Audit conducted in 2016:

The red dot is an indication that Nepal is unable to properly oversee its airlines under its jurisdiction. Our lack of interest in aircraft crash investigation is clear in the picture. Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal is quite known for issuing aircraft license under pressure from ministers. On the other hand, Nepal geographical terrain and weather conditions cannot be thrown out of topic. STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) airports are quite a threat to the aviation safety. And there is always a human factor incorporated in every crash. There have been 727 deaths in total and34 fatal air accidents over the past seven decades, according to records maintained by the Aviation Safety Network (ASN), a US-based international organization. Out of 34 fatal crashes, 14 have occurred only after the turn of the century. But we still don’t learn. A lot of information can be retrieved from an aircraft investigation if successfully accomplished. The cause of crash (human error or technical glitches), or was it the error in navigation? Did the high hills cause communication blackout? Or did the aircraft maintenance was not effective? A lot of people have died while a few pilot has assumed martyrdom saving onboard passengers.

So, are Nepal’s skies comparatively unsafe? Are we geographically cursed? Is human error playing a crucial role in fatal accidents?  Or is our aviation industry technologically incompetent? Although Nepalese airliners are airworthy with the nation having fairly adequate navigation services and aerodromes, Nepal is still banned. This is nothing but incapability of CAAN to operate efficiently and poor organizational ability. All of this can be accounted for politicization of aviation authority. At least two director generals at CAAN and four ministers for civil aviation have assumed and demitted office since 2013, but none had any concrete plan to vacate the disgraceful blacklist.

The EASA decision of banning Nepal came with days after Nepal decided to buy six Chinese aircraft. So, was that the factor that caused ban on Nepal? Well, partially it may be true since most Chinese made aircraft do not comply with European standards. So, are we not suffering enough? Yes, and one may not be able to see the economic effect of this ban. Firsthand, international travelers will not prefer Nepal airliners to travel. Secondly, the insurance for the Nepalese aircraft have skyrocketed since the blacklisting. So, this has affected the gross income of the nation. So, is there no hope to move towards white list? Well, the answer is yes. A blacklisted nation Philippines has recently came out of EU blacklist in 2015 after five long years. Philippines aviation authority was able to comply with the European standards after cooperating with EU. So, why can we not follow into the footsteps of Philippines and get rid of this ban?

Article by; Anil Sapkota
Mechanical Engineering Student
Institute of Engineering
Pulchowk Campus

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