CAAN bans mountain flights in Nepal’s monsoon season after string of accidents

KATHMANDU: Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAAN), the regulatory body overseeing the country’s aviation sector, has imposed a ban on mountain flights conducted by helicopters for the duration of the monsoon season.

This decision comes in response to a series of helicopter accidents and the authority’s concerns regarding the safety of flying during this period.

Gyanendra Bhul, the information officer for CAAN, confirmed that the ban on mountain flights and flower shower flights will remain in effect until the end of the ongoing monsoon season, which concludes in September.

“While search, relief, and rescue flights will not be impeded, mountain flights and floral flights have been temporarily suspended,” Bhul stated.

He justified the ban on mountain flights by highlighting that the impact on airline companies would be minimal due to the tourism off-season during the monsoon. However, he also acknowledged that if the tourism industry were significantly affected, alternative measures would be considered.

This decision was prompted by a tragic helicopter crash that occurred three days ago, resulting in the loss of six lives, including the pilot and five foreign tourists who were on a mountain flight.

The accident involved a Manang Air helicopter, identified by its call sign 9N AMV, which crashed while returning from a mountain flight in the Everest region of Solukhumbu.

The helicopter went down during its return to Kathmandu, resulting in the fatalities of five Mexican tourists and the pilot. So far in 2023, Nepal has witnessed four helicopter crashes.

Bhul disclosed that airline companies have received strict instructions to adhere to a new regulation, mandating that either the departure or landing point for helicopters must be an airport. This rule aims to minimize helicopter accidents.

CAAN’s objectives include enhancing safety, efficiency, and professionalism within Nepal’s airspace. To achieve these goals, the authority plans to implement weather tracking systems at airports, hold pilots accountable for accidents, and leverage technology in helicopters.

A committee led by air expert Bhesraj Subedi will oversee daily flight operations for helicopters and airports with short runways.

Bhul cautioned about the unpredictable weather conditions during the monsoon season, characterized by a mix of rain and sunshine. Given that helicopters operate under Visual Flight Rules (VFR), he emphasized the importance of taking necessary precautions.

“These measures are being implemented to assess the impact of the monsoon season. It is an experimental exercise, limited to the monsoon period, considering that helicopters fly at low altitudes,” Bhul shared.

Additionally, Bhul announced that the authority has decided to prohibit helicopter pilots who are also shareholders of helicopter companies from operating commercial flights. He revealed that approximately half a dozen companies employ such pilots.

Fiscal Nepal |
Friday July 14, 2023, 10:25:35 AM |

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