ICAO audit scrutinises Nepalese safety

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Safety monitors in Europe are awaiting the results of an ICAO audit in Nepal before deciding whether to put greater pressure on authorities to curb the country's dismal accident record.

No Nepalese carriers operate to the European Union but the country's airlines have suffered several serious accidents over the past few years, with European passengers among the casualties. The latest, in mid-May, involved a Nepal Airlines de Havilland DHC-6.

Nepalese civil aviation authority CAAN held technical consultations with the European Commission at the end of May, in which carrier Sita Air - which suffered a fatal crash in September last year - also participated.

The Commission says the discussions showed Nepalese oversight activities are "more complete" than suggested by information it had previously received.

In documentation accompanying the latest blacklist revision, it says the CAAN provided data on safety initiatives and follow-up of accident investigation recommendations.

"These safety initiatives included the establishment of safety objectives and safety targets," it adds. "An effective implementation of all the safety initiatives should lead to improved oversight and better control of safety risks."

But it adds that "several challenges" remain for the country's air transport industry, including recruiting sufficient and competent personnel while maintaining air operations in the demanding terrain.

ICAO is scheduled to perform an on-site co-ordination and validation audit in Nepal during July and the European documentation says it "seems appropriate to wait for the results" before completing any assessment of the situation.

But it adds that, should the audit reveal that risks are not being adequately contained, the Commission would be "forced to take action" - either against individual carriers or the country's aviation regulator as a whole.