KATHMANDU, July 21: The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has removed Nepal from its Significant Safety Concern (SSC) list.
A meeting of SSC Validation Committee held in ICAO headquarters in Montreal took the decision on July 20, officials of CAAN said, organizing a press meet in Kathmandu on Friday.
The global aviation body had included Nepal in its bad books in 2013 after it was unsatisfied with the progress made by Nepal to make its airspace safe.
Commenting on the decision, CAAN Spokesperson Birendra Prasad Shrestha told Republica that their hard works had paid off. “Now we will formally request the European Commission to review its blacklist and remove the ban on Nepali airlines to fly in its airspace,” he added. “As the ICAO has given thumbs up to our efforts of improving aviation safety, we are hopeful that the European Commission will open its airspace for Nepali airlines very soon.”
According to Shrestha, CAAN is planning to send a request letter along with the latest audit report of ICAO to the European Commission within a couple of weeks.
ICAO had sent a two-member audit team comprising Captain Eugene Voundri and Aeronautical Engineer Edmund Bohland in the first week of July to study aviation safety situation in Nepal. The team had audited aviation legislation, flight operations, personnel licensing and air worthiness of Nepal’s aviation sector. They had also conducted field observation of national flag carrier Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) along with Himalayan Airlines.
The ICAO usually conducts audits of eight elements of aviation -- primary aviation legislation, specific operating regulations, safety oversight functions, technical personnel qualification and training, provision of safety critical information, licensing and certification, surveillance obligations, and resolution of safety concerns.
The audit report states that Nepal succeeded to meet the ICAO standards. According to the report, Nepal’s compliance rate was 66.08 percent, higher than ICAO’s mandatory compliance rate of 60 percent.
Sugat Ratna Kansakar, managing director of Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC), said that the ICAO’s fresh decision has opened new opportunities for Nepali airlines. “The first and difficult part was to remove the SSC tag which we have managed to do successfully. Other difficulties will end gradually,” Kansakar said, “Nepal airlines will soon fly in European airspace. It will make a huge contribution to the Nepali tourism industry.”
Kansakar further added that all stakeholders of the aviation sector should contribute from their side to comply with ICAO’s aviation standards. “ICAO’s decision has paved the way for Nepali airlines to start flights to European countries,” he added.
NAC has already unveiled plan to fly to London, among other European destinations, after acquiring wide-body jets. It has also initiated process to acquire International Air Transport Association (IATA) membership.
CAAN spokesperson Shrestha said that Nepal will have to make a presentation, outlining improvements made on aviation safety front at a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) meeting in Brussels, Belgium, in the near future. EASA will decide on the blacklist based on Nepal’s presentation, according to Shrestha.