New flight safety rules impact remote areas of Karnali

Published On: August 7, 2023 07:00 PM NPT By: Govinda KC

BIRENDRANAGAR, Aug 7: The recent implementation of new flight safety rules by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has sparked concerns among the residents of Karnali's remote areas and stakeholders in the aviation and tourism sectors. The rules, aimed at reducing the risk of air accidents due to adverse weather conditions, prohibit flights in certain remote areas of Karnali and Sudurpaschim provinces in the afternoon, even when the weather is clear.

According to the latest instructions, flights are banned after 12:30 PM at airports such as Talcha, Salle, Simkot, and Kolti in Sudurpaschim. As a result, essential services, including rescue operations, regular and chartered flights, and transportation of food and construction materials, are severely affected. The rule change has caused difficulties for the locals, who heavily rely on air services as their only means of transportation in areas with no road access.

While the CAAN's decision is motivated by the desire to enhance flight safety, critics argue that it lacks practicality and negatively impacts the livelihoods of people in the region. The residents of remote areas, such as Humla, emphasize that the restriction on afternoon flights hampers their ability to access crucial services and resources. Ratna Bhandari, a local of Humla, said that the rule of not being able to fly after 12 o'clock is not practical for the people of remote areas of Humla who have to rely on air.

Aviation and tourism entrepreneurs also express discontent with the new rules, which restrict commercial and chartered flights from 6:45 AM to 12:30 PM during July to September. They contend that this prohibition disrupts their businesses and hinders crucial development efforts. Helicopter entrepreneurs particularly highlight challenges in conducting rescue operations and transporting construction materials.

Tourism entrepreneur Devi Krishna Rokaya said, "The weather clears in the afternoon, and flights are banned at that time."

The CAAN's decision has also drawn criticism for eliminating the option of obtaining chartered flight permits during extended hours, limiting airport operations strictly to the prescribed timings. This move has raised concerns among tourism entrepreneurs, who stress that the afternoon weather often clears up, making flights viable during those hours.

Surkhet Civil Aviation Office chief Rajanraj Dhungel said there is no option to follow the rules of the CAAN. "Since it is the monsoon season, the authority has sent the latest instructions to reduce accidents."


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