European regulators remain dissatisfied with Nepalese authorities’ efforts to bring the country’s civil aviation safety and oversight into line with international standards, following an on-site assessment conducted in September.

Nepal has been the subject of a blanket blacklisting by the European Commission for a decade.

While the on-site assessment – carried out by the Commission and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency – was intended to explore whether the restriction could be eased, air safety specialists have disclosed multiple issues which are yet to be resolved.

The assessment covered not only the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal but also flag-carrier Nepal Airlines and regional operator Shree Airlines.

According to the Commission, the assessment of the CAAN found “discrepancies” between the approved organisational structure and the actual distribution of sections and personnel, and revision is “critical” to ensure “robust” oversight.

Nepal Airlines Airbus-c-Airbus

Source: Airbus

Nepal Airlines and Shree Airlines were visited, along with the CAAN, as part of the assessment

Practices in personnel licensing and flight-examiner systems show “non-compliance” with international standards, it says, and there is an “absence” of a “robust framework” for designating and monitoring flight examiners and instructors – particularly in helicopter operations.

There are also “significant gaps” in the flight operations division, it adds, notably regarding fatigue oversight in relation to duty-period limitation as well as compliance checks during approval processes.

“These failures indicate an urgent need for CAAN to implement robust fatigue-management protocols and strengthen their technical evaluation and approval processes,” says the Commission.

The assessment raised concerns about certification and surveillance, finding a “lack of specific training and qualifications” among inspectors, particularly regarding type ratings for aircraft operated by air carriers.

There is a “systemic issue” in the flight-operations division’s approach to evaluating and validating airlines’ flight-safety documentation, it says, and points out “observed discrepancies” such as non-compliance in collision-avoidance system requirements, fuel calculations, and oversight of flight-time limitations.

The Commission adds that the authority’s airworthiness inspection arm “exhibits a lack of maturity in critical aspects” including audit control, training programme completeness, and diligence in document review.

But it also acknowledges a “strong commitment” from CAAN personnel to improve the situation. “It is crucial for CAAN to continue fostering this commitment,” it adds.

Shree Airlines-c-Shree Airlines

Source: Shree Airlines

Shree is a Nepalese carrier which uses a fleet of regional jets and turboprops

Nepal Airlines and Shree Airlines were visited by the assessment team on 13-14 September.

“Observations raised during the assessment visit suggest that Nepal Airlines requires a substantial overhaul of its systems and processes to achieve the necessary maturity in its [safety-management system],” says the Commission, after the visit highlighted such weaknesses as inadequate hazard identification, repetitive findings in annual audits, and insufficiently-detailed audit checklists.

It adds that the airline also had “evident issues” in areas of training competencies, flight-time limitations, and compliance monitoring.

Shree Airlines also needs to “significantly enhance” its safety-management system and operational policies to align with international standards, the Commission states, highlighting matters relating to flight planning, crew fatigue management, and adherence to regulatory requirements for de-icing, collision-avoidance systems, and minimum equipment lists.

Both airlines and the civil aviation authority were invited to a European air safety committee hearing in mid-November.

While the authority detailed actions taken immediately after the on-site assessment, including organisational restructuring and measures relating to compliance monitoring, the Commission says neither the regulator nor the airlines have sufficiently addressed the committee’s concerns, and it is not yet prepared to lift the blacklisting.