Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Refusal to sign logbook: Nepal Airlines’ MA60 test flight called off, once again; Non-cooperation of the Chinese plane’s manufacturer blamed

KATHMANDU, JUN 18 - Test flight of Nepal Airlines’ new MA 60 aircraft scheduled for Monday was called off at the eleventh hour after Chinese engineers sent by the plane-maker “refused to sign the logbook” permitting the plane to take off.

After completing all the processes—validation of Chinese pilots and engineers by the aviation regulators, emergency evacuation drill, and aircraft survey inspection, among others—last week, the national flag carrier had scheduled to conduct a test flight of the Modern Ark 60 (MA60) plane at 3:00 pm on Monday at the Kathmandu airport, according to Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) officials.

“Things became complicated after two Chinese engineers sent by Xi’an Aircraft Industries Corporation, the maker of MA60, who are here to assist NAC, did not sign the aircraft logbook permitting the plane to take off,” said NAC Spokesperson Ram Hari Sharma.

“We waited until 7:00pm for their permission, and finally the test flight was called off,” he said, adding the test flight could not be conducted on Tuesday too as the Chinese engineers in Kathmandu said they need orders from the Civil Aviation Administration of China before signing the log-book to confirm the aircraft flying for the test is indeed airworthy.

NAC officials said there has not been proper coordination between the crew members sent to Kathmandu by the plane-maker. For example, the pilots were all set to fly the

aircraft on Monday, but the engineers hesitated to release the plane.

Ratish Chandra Lal Suman, director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan), said foreigners need to follow Nepali Civil Airworthiness Requirement and Flight Operation Requirement regulations to operate an aircraft registered in Nepal, and Caan had permitted the Chinese crew for the same after verifying their documents.

“We don’t know the exact reason behind Chinese engineers’ unwillingness to dispatch the aircraft for test,” Suman said, adding they might also have a provision of getting permission from their aviation regulator.

NAC officials said the plane-maker has dispatched six engineers to assist Nepali engineers under the “after sales support” agreement between Nepal and China. They have to train Nepali engineers for at least six months.

Nine Nepali engineers have received maintenance training of the particular type aircraft in China.

A new plane needs to conduct test flights on every planned destination before putting it for commercial operation.

As per the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requirements, a licensed engineer will be required to make decisions about serviceability before releasing an aircraft. The signature on the aircraft maintenance engineer’s log-book means the aircraft is airworthy, or safe to fly.

Monday’s setback for NAC came after the recent aircraft de-registration issue that forced the ailing carrier to ground its brand new plane for 43 days.

On April 27, NAC had added the 56-seater turboprop to its domestic fleet, and announced commercial flights with promotional fares from May 15 on different trunk routes. However, it was issued the national registration number “9N-AKQ”, also referred as the “tail number”, only on June 10.

The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) had directed NAC to fly its grounded MA60 aircraft by June 29. It was CIAA’s second such order to the national flag carrier after the latter failed to meet the earlier deadline to put its aircraft for commercial operation.

Earlier, the CIAA had directed NAC officials to start operating the new aircraft by June 15 or face action.

The second deadline was given to NAC after its officials sought extension of the previous deadline of June 15 saying that it was not possible to operate the grounded aircraft on that date due to China’s failure to send the de-registration documents on time.


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