The European Commission (EC) has issued an invitation to officials of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) to Brussels, Belgium next month to shed light on the steps they have taken to address safety issues.
The invitation comes less than a week after the EC handed down a decision to uphold the ban on Nepali carriers.
Last week, the EC released an updated European Union air safety list of non-European carriers that do not meet international safety standards. Nepal remained on the list, thus barring it from operating within the EU.
CAAN officials commented that the upcoming meeting could be a crucial one as it could prove that they have made progress in addressing the deficiencies that were identified by the EC four years ago.
In December 2013, the EC had slapped a blanket ban on all airlines from Nepal from entering European airspace.
“The EC has a few concerns regarding safety deficiencies like compliance with safety recommendations made by different aircraft accident committees in the past,” said Rajan Pokhrel, the Deputy Director General of the CAAN.
The EC could also ask Nepal to show proof that they have established an independent aircraft accident investigation body, Pokhrel said.
On July 21, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) took away the significant safety concerns (SSC) tag it had placed on Nepal after an examination of Nepal’s safety standards showed improvement.
However, out of the eight critical elements of aviation safety—primary legislation, organization and safety oversight functions, personnel licensing, aircraft operations, airworthiness of aircraft, aerodromes, air navigation system, and accident and incident investigation—only four areas were checked by the ICAO officials.
These were legislation, organization, operations and airworthiness.
“We have to explain to the EC the progress made by Nepal in the rest of the areas,” remarked Pokhrel. “We are fully prepared for that,” he said.
The next aviation safety committee meeting which will update the EU air safety list is set for June 2018.
The government has also started work in creating an independent aircraft accident investigation body as part of an international mandate to bolster aviation safety and prevent accidents in the future.
A committee created by the Ministry of Civil Aviation a few months back forwarded a report proposing suitable organizational, financial and administrative modalities.
As of the moment, aircraft accident investigations are conducted as per the Civil Aviation (Investigation of Accident) Regulation 2014. The common protocol is to create an ad hoc investigation committee after an accident occurs, but the reports generated by such government panels are often bashed for concealing shortcomings.