Nepal Airlines Boeing brings fuelNepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) on Thursday dispatched its Boeing 757 to Kolkata to pick up aviation turbine fuel to recharge the depleted reserves of Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) amid worries that continued shortages due to the blockade by India could ground domestic carriers.
Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) on Thursday dispatched its Boeing 757 to Kolkata to pick up aviation turbine fuel to recharge the depleted reserves of Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) amid worries that continued shortages due to the blockade by India could ground domestic carriers.
NAC officials said that the Boeing made two roundtrips to Kolkata.
The first flight landed at 4:15pm at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) on Thursday. In 1989 too,
the then Royal Nepal Airlines had made a similar airlift from Bangladesh to keep the kitchen fires burning after the southern neighbour sealed the border.
NAC spokesperson Ram Hari Sharma said that after the Boeing was defueled, it would be sent back to conduct its regular services on the Kuala Lumpur and Doha sectors on Thursday night. He said that a Boeing 757 could carry 33 tonnes of fuel in the tanks in its wings. Kathmandu to Kolkata is a 45-minute flight. “The jet requires 7.5 tonnes of fuel for the roundtrip,” he said.
“Defueling the aircraft will yield at least 20 tonnes after leaving enough in its tanks to conduct its regular flights,” he added. “This will help NOC to boost its reserves. We can airlift more fuel as per the government’s order and need.” The daily fuel requirement of domestic carriers amounts to 50 tonnes. Sharma said that NAC planes would not be transporting other fuels like petrol, liquefied petroleum gas and diesel. The Boeing 757-200, a passenger-freighter combi model that debuted in the late 1980s, can be modified to special freighter specifications for cargo use. NAC had procured the first of its two 757s in 1987. Government officials said that due to the aircraft’s age and other technical requirements, it cannot transport other petroleum products.
However, the expenses of airlifting fuel from Kolkata will not increase the government’s financial burden much because of the high profit margin. NOC has been selling jet fuel to international airlines at Rs133 per litre in Kathmandu while it costs Rs42 per litre in Kolkata.
Sharma said that a one-hour charter flight to Kolkata costs $13,160. NAC can earn $19,000 by conducting a flight to Kolkata with a full capacity of 190 passengers. “Obviously, we will incur losses when airlifting fuel. However, given the present context, losses will not matter and it is also our social obligation.”
The unofficial trade embargo imposed by India for the last two weeks has affected overland transportation of petroleum products, forcing the government to examine its options to keep domestic airlines flying. TIA authorities have already stopped providing refuelling facilities to international airlines in Kathmandu.
Last week, the Tourism Ministry had directed NAC to submit an action plan regarding the possibility of flying in aviation turbine fuel from Bangladesh and nearby points.
Staff transportation halted
Nepal Airlines Corporation has stopped providing transportation facilities to its staff from Thursday due to the fuel shortage. NAC officials said that most of the employees had come to the office using public transportation or their own vehicles. Meanwhile, private airlines have been asking the Tourism Ministry to provide them gasoline as their ground service activities have been affected. The airlines said that they had not been able to drop off or pick up their airport staff as their vehicles had run out of fuel.