Recent impromptu verbal outbursts against the sitting civil aviation minister has more to do with deep frustrations among paying passengers for having made to wait for someone as if they did not matter
It would be ideal if we were also able to cite and deliberate on incidents that are exclusively related to Nepal aviation. But even then examples from elsewhere will still continue being a rich source of valuable lessons. Because of scant media attention coupled by lack of general public interest here, we generally rely on examples from elsewhere. So far as common aviation related story goes, journalists are often seen interested in hyping even an insignificant story as a near disaster one. This is not just typical to us. It is equally true elsewhere as well.
A reputed Indian aviation site made it clear in a recent tweet: “see Indian aviation journalists. A blown tyre is also handled quite routinely. The left tyre handled the load of the gear, when the right tyre was blown. That is redundancy built in aviation. No need of resorting to scaremongering headlines.” This was with respect to a video recording in a social media site that showed a long strip of rubber fluttering off a tyre blown during take-off, the aircraft still landed without any incident at its destination.
Stories from home
This piece presents three aviation-related stories from our side and two from elsewhere. The first among the home story is the speed by which our private airline operators have gone in making fleet extension. It is ATRs that dominate our domestic trunk sector and it was defunct Necon that got the trend going. Aerei da Trasporto Regionale is a Franco-Italian venture while the period before belonged to the British HS748s (or Avro-748). Both Necon and Nepal Airways first began with HS748s. Incidentally, the latter was the first to introduce Harbin Y12 (predecessor of type owned by RA now) while Everest Air got Dornier introduced. Currently Buddha has the largest fleet of ATRs with most recent addition being from the stock of India’s, now defunct, Jet Airways.
But another upcoming private airline, Shree, has chosen a different turboprop altogether, DH4/Q400 is a two engine regional turboprop built in Canada. Comparatively DH4 is little faster, larger and quieter besides being aesthetically sleek n slender.
Amidst the din of the fleet augment rush, one wonders if the domestic market can digest the total number of air seats in offer. As we know, most are compelled to fly only because of pathetic state of our highways and poor services that operate where available. Airlines should know better about the consequence of cut throat price competition in a small market as ours. That aside, it is a common experience that there is more hassle and hours of waiting before one gets to board a flight these days. It cannot be denied that this reality coupled with fears of cancellation has made flying lose its traditional lustre.
This brings us spot on to review the recent case of a flight delayed caused by no less a person than the sitting minister connected with Civil Aviation. First of all, there is an unfortunate trend among VIPs to treat airlines as their personal drone. We cannot expect all passengers to be docile and quiet while some feel better letting out impromptu verbal outbursts. Understandably, this was more to do with deep frustrations among paying passengers for having made to wait for someone as if they did not matter. But it was appalling that the minister Yankee Bravo (for YB, in aviation) in trying to put a politically tainted jama, in social media the next day, blaming the opponents for the happenings at Nepalgunj. His effort has come to nought as a well known person like Bal Krishna Neupane, who also happened to be on that flight, has blasted YB’s allegations to tatters (STV interview). It would have been better to let it pass by keeping quiet after acknowledging for having caused the delay. Further, YB was also responsible for another gaffe by making a premature and unilateral announcement that senior citizens over 70s would be accorded 50 percent discount in all domestic air travels even bringing this scribe among hundreds of thousands to be benefitted. Rather than discussing with stakeholders first, he seems to have chosen the wrong track by announcing first and try bulldozing airlines later. He must have discovered to his own dismay that it was not as simple. But there is a good possibility of such thing being forced upon RA.
An even more appalling story relates to RA’s mistreatment of a well known lady with medical condition that required her to carry a portable Oxygen concentrator along side. The normal air we breathe consists of 80 percent Nitrogen and 20 percent Oxygen while the concentrator makes its output richer of Oxygen by over 90 percent making it extensively useful for those who need it. As the story in the media goes, a day earlier, when she went for check in, she was asked to bring in a latest certificate from a doctor saying she was fit to travel. That done, the next day Captain of the flight seems to have raised objection against her boarding forcing her to return home yet again missing an important regional women’s event that was being held in New Delhi, where she was invited to deliver a lecture.
It must not be the first time that a RA passenger had travelled with such a device as RA must have carried thousands in far worse state of health to neighbouring countries for treatment. Further, it has surely flown in many more terminally sick persons on return flights as well. But airlines do land at nearest airport en route during medical emergencies in order to offload sick person and it costs them quite a lot doing so. As such, it is natural for airlines to be careful about patient’s condition. But since this was a short flight to New Delhi, even if there was an emergency, the flight would still be heading to right destination requiring no deviation whatsoever.
So what was the problem? Unfortunately, we have very few persons as internationally recognised and famous as the lady in question and it is deplorable that RA mistreated her grossly. If RA does not have a policy on the Oxygen concentrator or any other essential medical devices that passengers need to carry regularly it’d better have them prepared. It should also make sure that Captains are adequately “educated” and ensure that check in staffs are not just polite but caring as well.
Stories from elsewhere
Moving on to stories from elsewhere, it is not the first time that an aircraft had to turn back due to coffee spill in the cockpit. The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) investigating an incident related to February 1919 says that free standing coffee on the A330 captain’s table got spilled and a small amount fell on the left side audio control panel (ACP-1).
It then became very hot, eventually producing an electrical burning smell and smoke. Soon the ACP-2 also failed affecting the VHF radio and public address system. The captain then chose to divert to nearest airport Shannon from somewhere over mid-Atlantic as the holiday charter aircraft with 337 on board was heading from cold Frankfurt to sunny Cancun in Mexico. While aircraft maker recommends using the cup holder, the size of incompatible cups used by the carrier on the route made lifting them from the holder difficult. This resulted in following of the unauthorised practice that ended being a big and expensive lesson for the airline.
But nothing can possibly be as bizarre as India’s low cost carriers IndiGo knowingly leaving behind all checked in baggage at Delhi to carry fuel to overcome strong seasonal headwind on the way to Istanbul. It appears to have been unaware about such regular winter time phenomena otherwise. Rather than their valuable baggage all they got at Istanbul was a letter that “honestly” explained the situation to the passengers who were least likely to appreciate knowing this after landing! It was a serious breach of trust and perhaps something one has to bear flying low cost.
Lastly, we would be interested in knowing what short of jama RA has come up explaining offloading of a respected senior citizen? Or does it feel any regret for having acted irresponsibly, that is?