Tourism minister, six others dead in chopper crash

Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari and six others died in a helicopter crash in eastern Nepal on Wednesday afternoon.

Crash site.
Photo Courtesy: Annapurna Post

Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari and six others died in a helicopter crash in eastern Nepal on Wednesday afternoon.

The ill-fated chopper of Air Dynasty crashed in a hill near Pathibhara Temple in Taplejung district, according to Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN). Bad weather is being seen as the cause behind the deadly accident.

Other passengers on board the helicopter were Mr Yubaraj Dahal, personal aide to the Prime Minister of Nepal, Birendra Prasad Shrestha, deputy director general of CAAN, Dhruba Bhochhibhaya, an engineer of CAAN; Ang Tshering Sherpa, managing director of Yeti Airlines and director of Thamserku Trekking; Mr Arjun Ghimire, PSO of the tourism minister, and Pilot Prabhakar KC.

The team was returning to Kathmandu after scouting a possible location for building a STOL airfield in Terathum district.

Minister Adhikari was a young and dynamic leader. The tourism industry had high hopes from Minister Adhikari as the country is preparing to celebrate Visit Nepal Year 2020 campaign. Similarly, Sherpa was a successful tourism entrepreneur having businesses in travel, hospitality and aviation sector. Shrestha and Bhochhibhaya were senior officers of CAAN – the aviation regulator.

According to security agencies, only the body of Minister Adhikari and his PSO Adhikari are recognizable. Other bodies are charred. Helicopters have reached the crash site to bring the bodies back.

PAC forms sub-committee to look into wide-body procurement

The Public Accounts Committee of (PAC) has formed a sub-committee under the leadership of Nepali Congress lawmaker Rajan KC to probe alleged irregularities in the purchase of two wide-body aircraft by Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC).

File photo of Airbus A330-200 series aircraft of Nepali Airlines Corporation.

The Public Accounts Committee of (PAC) has formed a sub-committee under the leadership of Nepali Congress lawmaker Rajan KC to probe alleged irregularities in the purchase of two wide-body aircraft by Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC).

The committee has been asked to submit its repor within 15 days.

Lawmakers Prem Ale, Dharmasheela Chapagain, Meena Subba, Chanda Chaudhary, Pradeep Yadav and Krishna Lal Maharjan are the members of the sub-committee.

The PAC formed the sub-committee based on a monitoring report prepared by the Public Procurement Monitoring Office (PPMO), after studying the all documents related to procurement of the aircraft.

Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) purchased the two Airbus A330-200 aircraft from US consortium AAR Corp. It took delivery of the first A330-200 on June 28, while the second aircraft joined its fleet a month later.

In its report, PPMO has concluded that Public Procurement Act was overlooked while procuring the aircraft. It also notes that the NAC chose to purchase the aircraft without inviting global tender as prescribed in the Public Procurement Act.

NAC had purchased the aircraft by inviting Request for Prposal (RFP) from interested suppliers.

 

Salam Air begins scheduled flights to Kathmandu

Salam Air, a budget carrier from the Sultanate of Oman, started scheduled flights on Muscat-Kathmandu-Muscat from Tuesday.

Salam Air

File photo of Airbus A320 aircraft operated by Salam Air.

Salam Air, a budget carrier from the Sultanate of Oman, started scheduled flights on Muscat-Kathmandu-Muscat from Tuesday.

The maiden flight of the carrier landed at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu at 8 am on Tuesday. The airline will conduct four flights a week on the sector.

The airline has appointed IME Group as its General Sales Agent (GSA) in Nepal.

Speaking at a press meet organized in Kathmandu, Chairman of IME Group Chandra Prasad Dhakal said that he was hopeful that the beginning of Salam Air flights to Nepal will support the Visit Nepal Year 2020 campign.

Dhakal also added that the airline will also bring foreign tourists to Kathmandu.

Established in 2016, the airline operated its first commercial flight in January, 2017. Along with Kathmandu, it operates flights to Jeddah of Saudai Arabia, Khartoum of Sudan, Karachi, Multan and Sialkot of Pakistan, Dubai of UAE, Doha of Qatar, Tbilisi of Georgia, Baku of Azerbaijan, and Dhaka of Bangladesh from its hub in Muscat. It operates a fleet of Airbus 320 aircraft configured to carry 174 passengers.

Similarly, Salam Air CEO Captain Mohamad Ahmed said he was hopeful that the flight will contribute to Nepal’s economy.

Salam Air is the second Omani carrier, linking Kathmandu with Muscat.

 

Nepal prepares to sign ASA with Australia

The government is planning to sign Air Service Agreement (ASA) with Australia and revise existing ASAs with Unite Arab Emirates and Thailand as it gears up to improve connectivity ahead of Visit Nepal Year 2020 campaign.

The government is planning to sign Air Service Agreement (ASA) with Australia and revise existing ASAs with Unite Arab Emirates and Thailand as it gears up to improve connectivity ahead of Visit Nepal Year 2020 campaign.

According to tourism ministry officials, the two countries have agreed in principle to operate seven weekly flights. Discussions are also being made for allowing Nepali airlines to fly to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

A tourism ministry source say discussions are also going on about including provisions like fifth freedom, unrestricted cargo an code-sharing, among others, in the agreement.

Fifth freedom right allows airlines to put down and take on passengers coming from or flying to a third state. For example, Druk Air of Bhutan coming from Paro can pick up passengers from Kathmandu Airport and fly them to New Delhi and vice versa.

The ASA will pave the way for Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) to fly to Australian destinations. It plans to operate A330-200 to Australia.Meanwhile, Nepal is holding talks to revise its ASA with UAE. Nepal is hoping to raise flights between the two countreis from 28 flights per week. Nepal and UAE first signed the ASA in 1999.

Similarly, the ministry is working to revise ASA with Thailand.

Earlier on June 18, Nepal revised its ASA with Japan. The revised ASA allows Nepali airlines to operate 14 flights a week to Japan. The agreement also allows Nepali airlines to operate flights to all major airports of Japan, except Haneda which is the main airport serving Tokyo. Japan has also given fifth freedom right to Nepali carriers.

Npal has signed ASAs with 38 countries so far.

NAC takes delivery of 1st of two Airbus A330-200

The first of the two Airbus A330-200 aircraft ordered by Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) arrived at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu on Thursday.

The Airbus A330-200 aircraft sits on the tarmac of Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. (All photos: Achyut Puri)

The first of the two Airbus A330-200 aircraft ordered by Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) arrived at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu on Thursday.

The wide-body aircraft, named Annapunra — or the goddess of bounty in Nepali — was given a customary water cannon salute at the TIA.

The second Airbus A330-200 aircraft is expected to join the NAC’s flee next month.

Both the aircraft are powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines and feature a two-class cabin configuration that will seat a total of 274 passengers — 18 in business class and 256 in economy class.

NAC has already signed Total Care Contract with Rolls-Royce for overall maintenance of the wide-body jets.

Both the aircraft were initially ordered by Hi Fly — a Portugese aircraft leasing company. NAC purchased the aircraft through US-based company AAR Corp.

NAC has alreay said that Dubai will be the maien

NAC has borrowed Rs24 billion from the Citizen Investment Trust (CIT) and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) to buy the jets.

This is the first time that a wide-body jet has been inducted in the fleet of a Nepali carrier. Two years ago NAC acquired two Airbus A320-200 series aircraft. It has already got approval from the board to induct two Airbus A320neo aircraft for short-haul flights.

NAC operates a fleet of two Airbus A320-200 and an ageing Boeing 757 aircraft for international flights. It plans to sell the Boeign after inucting two A320neo aircraft.