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With 27 crashes in 3 decades, why Nepal carriers have been banned from EU airspace for last 10 yrs

The Sunday crash, which claimed lives of at least 68 of 72 passengers onboard, has brought the Nepalese aviation sector's safety issues back into focus.

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New Delhi: The deadliest plane crash in Nepal in more than 30 years, which claimed at least 68 lives, has again brought into focus the safety issues plaguing the Nepalese aviation sector.

On Sunday morning, an ATR 72 aircraft belonging to Yeti Airlines carrying 72 people, including crew members, crashed before landing in Pokhara.

The country has witnessed about 27 plane crashes over the past three decades, according to Aviation Safety Network (ASN) database. ASN is an exclusive service of the Flight Safety Foundation, an independent, non-profit, international organisation in the field of aviation safety. 

In December 2013, the European Union had barred all Nepal airlines from operating in European airspace citing significant security concerns. Last reviewed in November 2022, the blanket ban continues.   

Asked if India would be looking at banning Nepal-based airlines, Arun Kumar, Director General of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), said India will take all measures to ensure safety.

“In this hour of grief, we stand with the people of Nepal and offer our condolences. At the same time, we shall take all measures to ensure safe aviation in our airspace,” he told ThePrint.

Back in 2013, when the Nepal carriers were banned from flying in EU airspace for the first time, the European Commission had stated, “On the basis of safety information from various sources and a hearing both with the Nepalese aviation authorities as well as with a number of Nepalese carriers, the Commission decided to put all airlines from Nepal on the EU air safety list.”

In a statement, at the time, Siim Kallas, then the Commission Vice-President responsible for transport, had said: “The current safety situation in Nepal does not leave us any other choice than to put all of its carriers on the EU air safety list. We do hope that this ban will help the aviation authorities to improve aviation safety. I have already asked the European Aviation Safety Agency to prepare an aviation safety assistance project for Nepal.”

The EU ban followed the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) — the United Nation’s aviation watchdog — putting Nepal in ‘Significant Safety Concern’ (SSC) list after an audit. However, Nepal was taken off the list in 2018.

According to a report in a Nepalese newspaper, in 2022, Nepal was hopeful of being removed from the EU’s air safety list. However, it also noted that the country did not still comply with a key demand of the agency to revise civil aviation policy to split the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) into operational and regulating bodies. 

ICAO had also in 2022 noted that this was needed to “ensure a clear separation of authority between the service providers, operators and the regulatory authority”. 

(Edited by Anumeha Saxena)

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