Begin typing your search above and press return to search.

Nepal air crash lessons for Northeast

Nepal’s worst air disaster in decades brings into the focus the issue of precautions during flying in hilly and mountainous region.

Nepal air crash

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  17 Jan 2023 4:16 AM GMT

Nepal's worst air disaster in decades brings into the focus the issue of precautions during flying in hilly and mountainous region. Expansion of air connectivity in India's northeast region comes with the reality that safety challenges are huge and need to be reviewed frequently to keep flight operations smooth and safe. Apart from airworthiness of aircraft, pilots being adequately trained and experienced in flying in difficult mountainous areas and high hills are crucial for aviation safety in the region. From unpredictable weather condition during monsoon to visibility falling to poor or zero due to fog during winter, experienced pilots manoeuvre toughest challenges to provide safe and smooth flying experience in the region. According to guidelines of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), aircraft registered in India may operate as long as the aircraft is under maintenance support provided by the manufacturers for continuous operation. One of the key recommendations of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture in its report on safety issues in civil aviation sector in the country focusses on licensing of personnel including pilots, other flight crew members, aircraft maintenance engineers, air traffic controllers. The committee describes licensing as "a crucial process with a direct effect on the safety of the air transport operations in the country" and recommended that utmost care must be taken to ensure that the licensing process for all such personnel is carried out strictly as per the established norms. "The licences thus issued should be renewed periodically after carrying out necessary inspection and tests necessary for such approval," insists the Committee and it further recommends that training programmes may be arranged for different aviation sector personnel from time to time in order to keep them updated regarding the best safety practices in the aviation sector. DGCA ensuring implementation of these recommendations can boost safety measures for flight operation in hilly regions like the Northeast. It will also boost its confidence to support rapid expansion of air connectivity in the region which can play a crucial role fast tracking development process by promoting tourism, trade and commerce, apart from reducing travel time for flying to various domestic and international destinations. The central government increasing allocations in the Union Budget for 2023-24 to Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau, as recommended by the parliamentary panel will go a long way in facilitating the bureau to undertake more in-depth scientific studies and research on safety measures based on their investigations and findings of air incidents and accidents and come up with timely safety recommendations. The parliamentary panel flagged another important issue of Air Traffic control towers having adequate number of Airport Traffic Controllers (ATCOs) who play a crucial role in safe operation of aircraft and pointed out that the demand for ATCOs will rise exponentially with the growth of aviation sector. The committee cautioned against backlog of vacancies in ATCOs post affecting operationalization of new airports. Apart from increasing the frequency of flights connecting the existing airports in the region, construction of more airports and upgrading existing ones is critical to achieve the desired goals of boosting air connectivity to make it a hub of international flights connecting the region with destinations in neighbouring countries. Increase in number and frequency often leads to scenarios such as two planes scheduled to enter the airspace of the ATC at nearly the same time. In such a situation, the ATCO may coordinate with the preceding ATC from which the aircraft departed to change its flight path for smooth and safe landing for both the incoming aircrafts. In a difficult region like the Northeast, ATCs being adequately manned by best trained terminal controllers needs to be prioritized, keeping mind the pace of expansion of civilian air connectivity. With elections in three states- Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura due in February-end or March first week, helicopter operations to ferry political leaders, ministers, have already started to increase and DGCA will have a busy schedule to ensure their safe operation besides airworthiness of the helicopters. Safe helicopter operations in the region is vital for connecting many remote areas in hilly regions not connected by roads for supplies of essentials to air-maintained borderland areas, more particularly in Arunachal Pradesh along India-China border. The government acting on the committee's recommendation to have pilot-training facilities and runways at all existing small airports and new airports being constructed has special significance for the Northeast. The region being strategically located, security of airports, Advanced Landing Grounds and helipads are equally important. The report highlights that India's scheduled airlines accident rate is much below the world average but there is no room for any complacency and taking all precautions during flying and constantly upgrading the safety norms in accordance with scientific studies, research is crucial to improve safety standards across the country, more particularly in challenging areas like the Northeast.

Next Story