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Compromise on safety standards cause of air crashes in Nepal


KATHMANDU, Feb 18: In 2006, the weather condition was similar to that one of Sunday´s when a MI-17 helicopter of the Shree Air crashed in Taplejung killing 24 among high profiled people including the then Minister for Forest and Soil Conservation Gopal Rai, Conservationists Chandra Gurung, Tirtha Man Maskey and Geographer Harka Gurung.

Official reports issued after the crash completely blamed the weather but an unofficial reports suggested that the minister´s assistant had pressurized to take the flight to cover up his busy schedule in the Capital.

An organization named Safer Skies later confirmed the unofficial information issuing a report on aviation safety by Journalist Toya Dahal.
This is the case for instance of a pressure that pilots are in to take flights, but a compromise on air-safety has not stopped but “multiply in the geographically challenged places where the food, logistics and other supplies are mainly dependent on airways,” if a Pilot´s experience is anything to go by.

When asked do pilots ever question about overloading or would they take a stand to not fly under pressure, Tara Air´s Captain Pilot Rabindra Dangol replied that his experience is evident that pilots in Nepal cannot afford doing that.

“It is an understood fact that company pays you back from whatever you make them earn taking the risks. It is never discussed,” he said. “The more flights you take, company goes in profit.”

In his 15 years experience on flight to mountainous regions, there are several cases of such compromise under overall pressure, he added.
Dangol´s saying proves true with the fact sheet that shows that 99 people lost their lives in seven cases of air crash since 2010.
“Air safety should be the first priority putting revenue and passengers´ comfort to second and third position but Nepal´s geography and the people´s dependency on airways for daily stuffs has overlooked the safety factor,” he added.

Of the two types of Nepal´s domestic, there least problem in the normal flights but the stalled flights are risky. Elaborating more reasons on the safety negotiation, Dangol mentioned that a pilot is ultimately under pressure and cannot deny to trip when the flights are already cancelled for a couple of days due to bad weather.
Still, the risk that a passenger carries while travelling 5km on road way is equal to 5000 miles in the airways, he added.

Last year, the flights to Humla alone saw three fatal crashes. After the death of Humla´s Chief Air Traffic Controller in the helicopter crash in Hilsa, the acting officer was quite aware not to take risk and he would cancel all the flight for the day if weather did not improve until 2pm.

“This sophisticated job to the outer world has several drawbacks when pilots have to compromise not only the safety but also their self integrity,” he added.
In his association with Cosmic Air, Dangol could not shift his job to another company as he was yet to be paid his 27 months´ salary. The company made him signs a document that read that all the financial dealings between Dangol and the airlines were fair. The airline later shut on a huge loss in 2008.

“A family man has to think more about livelihood than messing up with the company over the issues, applied here in our job too” mentioned Captain Dangol.
A retired Instructor with the Cabin Crew of the Nepal Airline, Subhash Basnyat says that the problem are given a hood throughout the year and a simple “RIP” from overall civil society and stakeholders gives a full stop to any cases of crashes which is giving continuity to the tragedies.

Another ex-employee of the NAC states that simply following the guidelines set by International Civil Aviation Organization would minimize the crashes. “How does a plane grounded long ago gets permission for trip? Who gives such permission is more important to find if safety is prioritized or not,” Thapa added.

Source- Republica Daily


Published on 2014-02-19 01:49:22

About nirjanasharma

Nepali Journalist.

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