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Nepal’s aviation safety issues to be discussed at European Commission meeting

Nepal’s aviation safety issues will be the subject of discussions at the Aviation Safety Committee meeting of the European Council (EC) on November 13-15 in the Belgian capital of Brussels.

To be examined at the meet is the progress made by the country’s airlines and its civil aviation authority.

According to Rajan Pokhrel, the Deputy Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), the EC had let them know that Nepal’s agenda has been included at the safety committee meeting. However, none of the officials from the airlines and CAAN have asked to attend the meeting. The meeting will review whether Nepal would be lifted from the air safety list.

Back in December 2013, the EC slapped a blanket ban on all airlines from Nepal from flying into any of the member states of the European Union. The EC has asked European operators and travel agents to inform European travellers who would have a right to reimbursement if they purchased a seat on a Nepali carrier as part of a journey to Nepal and decide not to use it.

CAAN officials, however, remarked that the EC had been asking about Nepal’s institutional reorganization as well as the stability of the country’s aviation regulator. The concerns were made public amid ongoing rift between the CAAN and the Civil Aviation Ministry.

Since Civil Aviation ministers have consistently sacked CAAN chiefs at the request of some private airline operators, the constant upheaval has impacted the stability of the institution, thus undermining the aviation sector reforms.

“The over politicking of the regulatory body in Nepal has been worrisome to many, including the EC,” said the officials.

Back in February, then foreign minister Prakash Sharan Mahat had asked EC President Jean-Claude Juncker in a meeting in Brussels to take away Nepali airlines from the safety list, reasoning that Nepal had already made massive strides.

President Juncker vowed to would look into the matter in a positive light after poring over data provided by the government of Nepal.

Then on August 3, the CAAN sent its report on the enhancements it had carried out in the aviation sector to the EC in a bid to expedite the lifting of the said ban. The EC pointed out deficiencies in three key areas—lapses in the revalidation of the air operators’ certificate, training and licensing and CAAN’s institutional capacity.

On July 21, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) detached the significant safety concerns (SSC) tag it had put on Nepal four years ago.

The 2013 audit report, a follow-up to the 2009 audit, had stressed that Nepal’s score of 55.01% in effective implementation (EI) of critical elements of safety oversight system was far below the global average of 60%.

The latest audit had Nepal scoring 66% for effective implementation of safety standards.

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