Supreme Court stays govt decisionThe Supreme Court on Sunday stayed the government’s decision to stop registration of new single-engine aircraft and ban passenger charter flights by such planes.
The Supreme Court on Sunday stayed the government’s decision to stop registration of new single-engine aircraft and ban passenger charter flights by such planes.
A division bench of justices Cholendra Shumsher and Devendra Shrestha issued the stay order, responding to a writ filed by Makalu Air and Goma Air. The order has paved the way for single-engine operators to fly passenger charter planes until the next verdict.
In the first week of March, the Tourism Ministry had issued directives to the operators, asking them to stop registering new single-engine aircraft and halt passenger charter flights by such planes following a crash-landing of Air Kasthamandap’s P-750 XSTOL plane on February 26, in which two pilots were killed.
As the decision was taken in haste without considering expert opinions and recommendation by a probe committee formed to look into the crash, the operators had filed the writ at the Supreme Court challenging the government decision.
“The apex court decision has come as a huge relief for the operators worried about their investment and also the passengers in the Karnali region who are heavily dependent on single-engine planes,” said Manoj Karki, general secretary of Airlines Operators Association of Nepal.
There are five single-engine aircraft currently operating in Nepal. Goma Air and Makalu Air have two each, while Air Kasthamandap has one.
Recently, lawmakers representing the Karnali region had criticised the government’s decision stating it had affected a large number of travellers in the remote Karnali. The lawmakers had said people in districts like Dolpa and Humla were forced to wait for at least two weeks to get a flight.
Single-engine aircraft operators said they have been following all the standard operating procedures prescribed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal and that the ministry’s decision had surprised them.
Even the reports produced by a number of government’s technical teams have recommended single-engine planes as a safe mode of transport in the mountainous region.
Single-engine aircraft are known for their short take-off and landing (STOL) capabilities on any type of terrain. A STOL plane needs only 195 metres of runway to take off, and it can stop within 130 metres on landing while carrying a payload of 1,500kg.
The aircraft have a history of more than 50 years in Nepal. A PC-6 Pilatus Porter provided support to the first successful ascent of Dhaulagiri in 1960. Swiss pilot Emil Wick flew a Pilatus Porter in the Himalaya for the first time in 1960s.
As Nepal’s domestic carriers are having a hard time enlarging or replacing their ageing fleet as the good old Twin Otter is difficult to come by in the international market and Dorniers cannot operate in remote terrain, the decision to ban passenger charter flight had made things difficult for single-engine operators, aviation experts said.