Nepal seeks deal with India for flight inspection servicesAirport and flight inspections have to be conducted every year, but Nepal has not been able to conduct the tests for the last two years due to Covid-19.
Nepal has asked the Airports Authority of India to provide periodic airport and flight inspection services for its airports.
On Monday, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal sent an official letter to the Indian state entity proposing to sign a long-term government-to-government deal as it wants to avoid being possibly forced into contracting unreliable companies amid the difficult times caused by Covid-19.
Raj Kumar Chhetri, officiating director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, told the Post that they had officially written to the Airports Authority of India after its proposal was approved by the board on Thursday.
“We have proposed signing a three-year contract. Once the Indian authority sends its response, we will sign the agreement,” said Chhetri, adding that they had planned to complete the periodic airport and flight inspection services of eight airports, including the upcoming international airport in Bhairahawa, by mid-December.
Radio communication infrastructure and air navigation aids of all airports need to be inspected after installation and before full operation. The air navigation aids that are in service need to be regularly inspected according to International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards and requirements to ensure safety and continuously accurate operational performance.
These inspections are done in flight by using flight inspection aircraft to analyse and assess the performance and efficiency of the aids to ensure the safety of the aircraft that rely on them for navigation and landing guidance.
Airport and flight inspections have to be conducted every year, but Nepal has not been able to conduct the tests for the last two years due to Covid-19.
Chhetri said that the fee for the periodic airport and flight inspection services charged by the Indian state entity was lower than that charged by other companies. “If the government-to-government modality works well, the contract can be extended after three years.”
On March 7, 2019, a Thai government-owned company Aeronautical Radio of Thailand won the $4.83 million contract for the supply, delivery, installation and commissioning of Communication, Navigation and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management, including meteorological equipment and other related services, at Gautam Buddha International Airport.
The Thai company has completed the installation of the navigation and communication equipment but informed the airport project that they would begin the calibration or testing of the equipment only after the Covid-19 situation in Nepal recedes to almost zero.
Chhetri said that they had to initiate the government-to-government deal with India because it was difficult to bring foreign experts under the existing coronavirus circumstances, and that could delay the periodic tests.
The civil aviation body had approached the South Korean and Indian governments and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States to conduct the tests, but only the southern neighbour responded positively.
The FAA, an agency of the US government responsible for the regulation of aircraft and airports, had conducted flight inspections of the radar system at Bhatte Danda in Lalitpur in 2017.
“As the construction of Gautam Buddha International Airport has been completed, we have to urgently begin the flight test of the airport. The test, as per the proposal sent to India, will have to be completed by mid-December,” Chhetri told the Post.
The civil aviation body had planned to conduct the test in September, but its board lacked a chairman for a long time as the newly formed government delayed appointing a tourism minister who heads it.
The government eventually named Prem Bahadur Ale as minister of culture, tourism and civil aviation on October 8. The first board meeting with the new chairman was held on Thursday.
According to the civil aviation body, the international airport in Bhairahawa is fitted with the instrument landing system (ILS) and it needs to be tested every six months. “The deal will save us the hassle of conducting tenders at a time of crisis,” said Chhetri.
Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa in south central Nepal is the gateway to the international pilgrimage destination of Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha.
It has a 3,000-metre-long and 45-metre-wide runway, and is slated to be ready for commercial operation by the beginning of 2022.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal had awarded the Rs6.22 billion civil works component, the first package, to China’s Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group in November 2013.