After a long wait the China-made aircraft of the national flag carrier finally landed at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu today afternoon.
The 58-seater MA60 aircraft is the first new aircraft to be added to Nepal Airlines Corporation fleet after 25 years, said NAC managing director Madan Kharel.
The ailing airlines had last purchased a new aircraft, a Boeing 757, in September 1988, which is still operational on international route. NAC had not added any new aircraft for domestic operation since January 1986, when it had received a Twin Otter.
Currently, the ailing national flag carrier has only one Twin Otter aircraft for the domestic operation, after a series of crashes recently.
The arrival of a new aircraft for the domestic operation can give the airlines a new lease of life after prolonged political interference and red tape that had bleed the state airlines blue.
Meanwhile, it will take NAC a while to fly the new aircraft for commercial purpose as it is yet to obtain Air Operator Certificate from the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal.
Director general of CAAN Ratish Chandra Lal Suman informed that the regulator will issue Certification of Registration to the aircraft as soon as NAC fulfills the criteria as per the Civil Aviation Regulation 2058.
Once the certificate is issued, NAC is planning to fly the new aircraft – on trunk routes – to Dhangadi, Bhairahawa, Biratnagar and Bhadrapur. The MA 60’s flight on trunk routes will help NAC minimise its loss caused by operation of flights in remote areas, where it is planning to operate another China-made Y-12e aircraft.
Though, the airlines is training its own pilots for MA 60’s flight, American pilots sent by Avic International Holding – the manufacturer of the aircraft – will assist Nepali pilots in flying the aircraft at present.
Once the operation of MA 60 begins and five other aircraft arrive that is expected to help national flag carrier regain its lost glory.
China Aviation Industry Corporation (CAIC) has provided the aircraft to NAC on grant. The aircraft is a part of loan and grant agreement worth Rs 6.67 billion for the procurement of six aircraft – two MA 60s and four 19-seater Harbin Y-12e – from China.
NAC had signed a commercial agreement with AVIC International Holdings –, a Chinese government undertaking – to procure six aircraft in September last year. According to the agreement, China had pledged to provide a 19-seater Harbin Y-12e and a 58-seater MA60 turboprop in grant and four other aircraft-three Harbin Y-12e and one MA60-on soft loans.
The MA60 aircraft is manufactured by Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation under the AVIC International Holding Corporation, while Y12e are built by Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation.
The first of the Y12e planes is scheduled to arrive on June 30 and the rest by September 30, according to the NAC.
The Chinese government had agreed to provide a grant and concessional loan assistance of Rs 6.671 billion to NAC to acquire and purchase six China-made aircraft.
Of the total assistance, Rs 2.943 billion has been allocated for acquisition of an MA60 and a Y12E aircraft on grant, and up to Rs 3.728 billion for purchase of another MA60 and three Y12E aircraft on a concessional loan. The concessional loan extended for 20 years comes with a grace period of seven years and 1.5 per cent interest rate.
Tourism Secretary Sushil Ghimire, Chinese ambassador to Nepal Wu Chuntai and senior officials of the NAC were at the international airport to receive the aircraft.