Tuesday, November 15, 2011

NAC team to visit China to examine aircraft

A technical team of Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) is scheduled to leave for China on Tuesday to inspect aircraft that China has agreed to provide Nepal in the form of grant or soft loan.

The government had requested the northern neighbour to provide eight small and medium-sized aircraft for NAC last week, and China had asked the Nepali side to come and have a look at the planes.

The technical team will be led by Ganesh Thakur, deputy managing director (technical), and includes Santosh Kumar Khati, deputy director (engineering department), Kiran Panta, deputy director (commercial department) and senior pilots Sharwan Rijal and Bijay Lama.

The NAC team will visit AVIC International, a Chinese government undertaking that produces and exports airplanes and helicopters like the ARJ 21 jet, the

MA60 and LE500 turboprops, the Y-12 twin-engine STOL, and the H425, EC120, C211 and HY10 helicopters. Around 1,400 aircraft made by the company are in operation worldwide. The NAC team plans to examine the MA60 turboprop and the Harbin Y12 STOL aircraft that Nepal has asked for. “We will see the viability of these aircraft on Nepali terrain and their performance and power among other characteristics,” said Rijal.

NAC has sought five 19-seater Y-12s and three 58-seater MA60s. The corporation plans to use the medium-sized aircraft for cross-border flights and the small ones on remote sectors. After inspecting the planes, the team will submit a report to the NAC board which will recommend to the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoTCA) which ones to obtain.

After the MoTCA decides on the planes, the Ministry of Finance will negotiate with the Chinese side regarding the nature of the assistance, whether it will be a grant, soft loan or both.

Of the two types of aircraft proposed for NAC, the Y12-1 series was operated by the now-defunct Nepal Airways in 1991. The Chinese company presently manufactures a new version of the plane, the Y12-4E. NAC’s workhorse on remote routes has been the Canadian-built Twin Otter aircraft. Between 1972 to 1979, the Canadian International Development Agency donated seven Twin Otters to NAC. Among them, only three are in operation.

With private airlines aggressively spreading their wings in the country’s skies, NAC’s market share in the first half of 2011 has declined by 3.5 percent. NAC currently has a 3 percent share in the domestic aviation market.

NAC’s domestic service is currently running at a loss. It has been incurring a loss of Rs 50 million annually on each aircraft serving remote areas.

Posted on: 2011-11-15 09:00

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