Aviation regulator announces a slew of safety measures post Air Dynasty crash
Mar 10, 2019-
The aviation regulator—Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal—has announced a slew of measures to enhance the operational safety of helicopters in Nepal following the Air Dynasty helicopter crash in Taplejung on February 27 that killed all seven aboard, including Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari.
The country’s civil aviation body is preparing the VIP flight guideline for helicopters and hiring foreign experts to conduct operational safety assessments in the wake of increasing chopper accidents.
“We have given the helicopter safety team two weeks to prepare the VIP flight guideline,” said Rajan Pokhrel, deputy director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal.
Pokhrel, who oversees the country’s aviation safety department, said that as soon as the team submits its report, its recommendations will be implemented. “The guideline will basically incorporate flight planning, pilot experience to handle VIP flight movement and other required procedures related to weather and terrain.”
According to Pokhrel, this is part of the International Civil Aviation Organisation Annex 19 requirements to the implementation of safety management system by the “accountable executive”, a set of processes that the regulator and service providers identify to formally manage a structured safety programme.
Aviation experts say while pilots are trained and professionally taught to say “no” when the situation is not favourable, no one follows the rule. “However, the new guideline will strictly enforce this rule and hopefully develop a culture to refuse to fly when the situation is not favourable,” said Pokhrel.
After the Air Dynasty helicopter crash, some aviation experts had suspected that the load factor could have affected the performance of the flight.
Although the load factor of the helicopter’s manifest showed 2,245 kilograms during takeoff—which appeared to be at a permissible limit, the aviation regulator has directed the operators of AS350 B3e helicopter to temporarily reduce the “bench seat” or seat near to the pilot while flying in high-altitude areas.
With this directive issued on Thursday, the AS350 B3e helicopters are now entitled to carry only five passengers. “Based on the experts’ advice that reducing load can increase choppers flying performance, we decided to reduce one seat from the AS350 B3e helicopters while flying in high-altitude areas,” said Pokhrel.
Helicopters in Nepal typically operate in challenging topography, and flights operating during inclement weather are particularly vulnerable. In Nepal, most of the helicopters are operated for rescue purpose. The civil aviation regulator has also stopped operation of helicopters at a helipad in Gorak Shep, located at an elevation of 5,164 metres near Everest Base Camp, as the area has been considered critical due to fast changing weather conditions, said Pokhrel.
Gorak Shep was the original Everest Base Camp used by the Swiss mountain climbers in their attempt to climb Mount Everest in 1952. “We have asked the operators to find an alternative to Gorak Shep. We will assess the new area before allowing helicopters to perform their operation from the new base.”
At least 19 fatal crashes of helicopters have taken place across the country since aviation authorities started keeping records in 1966.
In the last two years, at least four new helicopter companies have started operations in Nepal, bringing the total number of private chopper companies to 11.
Published: 10-03-2019 08:01