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Nepal and Aviation Industry: A REVIEW

We have recently heard about the US Bangla plane crash that took place on March 12 that took lives of 52 people out of 66 on board.

Till date the major airline mishaps in Nepal are:

As stated by The Himalayan Times, the database records (as per February 24, 2016) held total 53 air crashes in Nepal since May 7, 1946. The most fatal accident reported so far is the Pakistan Internal Airlines (PIA) flight 268 that occurred on 28th September 1992, killing all 167 people on board.

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What could possibly be the reason behind so many crashes you may ask? As per this Telegraph article, “poor training and weak regulations has added to the danger faced by air passengers in a country whose mountainous environment would be challenging to the most skilled of pilots.” The gist is that aircrafts here fly at a lower altitude as compared to other places, the weather pattern is unpredictable and there are many mountains. Despite being a small country it has a higher than average crash rate.

Source: https://aviation-safety.net/database/country/country.php?id=9N

While the pilots are blamed for their mistakes, it might not entirely be their mistake after all. The machinery conditions and communication issues could be another cause. The five frequent causes of mishaps as stated by The Conversation are:

  1. Pilot error: As stated above, pilots have a ton of management. They already have the responsibility of the lives (including theirs) once they are on air, as well as the responsibility to manage the correct programming of the vital flight-management computer (FMC), calculating the required fuel uplift, and finally safely land to the ground. Anything could go wrong at any stage here.
  2. Mechanical failure: With the technology coming up so far, the possible errors have also been increasing in the sense that newer forms of mechanical failures are discovered. Equipment failures still account for around 20% of aircraft losses as stated by The Conversation.
  3. Weather, geographical situations: Weather conditions like storms, snow and fog usually lead to delays in flights, but in situations when they can’t be predicted, they can be fatal. In a country like ours with a difficult terrain, there exists every possibility of crashes on every flight.
  4. Sabotage: While the cases of hijacking have been pretty rare in the case of Nepal (the 1973 hijack), it is still a possibility.
  5. Other forms of human error: Human errors such as mistakes made by air traffic controllers, dispatchers, loaders, fuellers or maintenance engineers are the factors of human errors. These cases could be frequent due to the weather pattern here.

To add to all this, Nepal has been banned by European Union (EU) for quite a time now. All airlines belonging to Nepal have been kept on EU’s Air Safety List because apparently as per this article, “safety officials do not trust the regulator [Nepal Aircraft Accident Investigation Commission and the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal]“.

On the other hand, I learned that many airline companies have shut down because they could not sustain. The ones that are popularly flying include Buddha Air, Makalu Air and Yeti Airlines with a total of 17 operational including them. I found out that the airline companies have been shutting down here due to many factors, mainly because of financial issues. As per a report by New Business Age, there are many companies that have registered themselves as airline companies, but they have not been able to start up their operations.

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According to the answer by experts to New Business Age, the following factors are responsible as to why airline businesses are shut down in Nepal:

  1. Low capital base and lack of planning: The airline business is a huge deal and before opening it up, one should realize that the loss could be really high if proper planning is not done. It is suggested that the companies go for merges to improve the capital bases and fleet, and to lower the operational cost to some extent. Also, the lack of skilled technical support is one factor to be worked on. The lack in the sense the limitation in the supply of skilled technicians and expert human resources.
  2. Not being run by aviation experts: Without the experience, it may be a difficult process to run an aviation business altogether. With the proper knowledge, it would be better for both the consumer as well as the team in every aspect including budgeting and long run profit. Also, proper study should be done before investing as the investment is pretty high. Many airlines can be seen entering the market without proper study; hence they shut down with time.
  3. Bad financial risk management: The financial risks may be overlooked in the beginning; it may pose risks in the near future. The fact that a person may want to invest in other fields other than the aviation field despite it being costly is also a factor that adds up financial risk. Long term plans to be made at the time of investment is suggested.

Though the recent incident that took place has certainly brought up a fear – fear of accidents, the odds of them happening is pretty low as compared to other means of transportation.

Airplane accidents are rare compared to roadway mishaps, but our airways are still quite lethal. Adequate training and enforcement of International aviation standards, can go a long way to help prevent airplane accidents. We are hopeful that the aviation industry will grow and bring policies in the favor of blooming aviation in the country. Have a safe flight!

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