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Post-Chinese plane deal, Nepali carriers banned from Europe's skies

Post-Chinese plane deal, Nepali carriers banned from Europes skies

Kathmandu: Within days of Nepal deciding to buy six Chinese aircraft, the European Commission (EC) has banned all Nepal-based airlines from flying into the European Union, terming them "unsafe".

The move comes as a huge setback to Nepal's aviation sector and will, in turn, have a direct impact on Nepal's key foreign exchange-earner, the tourism sector.

"The current safety situation in Nepal does not leave us any other choice than to put all of its carriers on the EU air-safety list," European Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said in a statement issued Thursday in Brussels.

"We do hope that this ban will help the aviation authorities (in Nepal) improve aviation safety," the statement said.

Experts here said the Nepal government's recent decision to buy Chinese aircraft, particularly the Xian MA60, and issuing it type certificate to fly in the Nepali sky, has forced the EU into imposing the ban.

In a bid to revive its crisis-ridden national flag carrier, Nepal on Nov 28 initialled a $34 million deal for purchase of six medium-size aircraft from China. The package involved acquisition of two Xian MA-60 and four Harbin Y-12E aircraft for operating domestic flights.

Though, none of the Nepali carriers operate flights in the 28-nation bloc, the ramifications of the ban will have a huge impact on Nepal's aviation sector and travellers from Europe to Nepal may not be able to use Nepali domestic flights due to the ban.

In its statement Thursday, the EC said European operators and travel agents will need to inform European travellers, who will have a right to reimbursement if they had booked a seat on a Nepali flight and decide not to use it.

Almost all Nepali dailies Friday gave top priority to the news related to the EC decision to ban Nepali flights.

All major dailies have concluded that the reason behind the ban was the Nepal government's hasty decision to purchase the aircraft from China for which EC has not issued type certificate yet. A type certificate is issued to signify the airworthiness of an aircraft manufacturing design.

On Nov 19, the EC had held discussions with Nepali aviation officials in Brussels and asked what measures Nepal was taking to ensure aviation safety.

Ratish Chandra Lal Suman, director general of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), informed during the meeting with EC officials that Nepal was committed to bringing down its non-compliance rate with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) below the global average.

The Nepali side at the Brussels's meeting had even sought a six-month grace period to improve air safety measures.

"Experts and aviation officials have said the rush decision of the European Commission to ban all Nepal-based airlines from flying in the European Union might be related to Nepal's move to permit Chinese-made MA60 aircraft in the Nepali skies," wrote Nepal's leading English daily, The Kathmandu Post.

Nepali officials were questioned by the Aviation Safety Committee of the EC on issuing type certificate to the 58-seater MA60 aircraft, the Post writes further.

According to a participant at the meeting, the committee had asked them why the certificate had been issued when the aircraft did not meet the obligations of the European Aviation Safety Agency and the US Federal Aviation Administration.


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