Nepalese authorities have suspended three air traffic controllers following an incident on Friday which saw a near miss between an Air India and a Nepal Airlines flight.
The incident occurred last Friday, and involved an Air India scheduled flight AI213 operating between New Delhi and Kathmandu, and Nepal Airlines flight RA416 en route from Kathmandu to Kuala Lumpur.
The inbound Air India aircraft, an Airbus A319, was on percent from 19,000 feet when it came into close proximity with the Nepal Airlines aircraft, an Airbus A320, which was operating at an altitude of 15,000 feet in the vicinity.
Proximity warning systems on board the aircraft alerted crews to the threat, and radar information showed that the Nepal airlines flight subsequently descended to 7000 feet.
The Nepalese aviation regulator, the civil aviation authority of Nepal (CAAN) has now taken action; suspending three air traffic controllers for what it characterised in the statement as “carelessness” according to news agency PTI.
According to a statement published on the CAAN social media channel:
“Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) of Tribhuvan International Airport involved in traffic conflict incident (between Air India and Nepal Airlines on 24th March 2023) have been removed from active control position until further notice.”
The three officers concerned were reportedly in charge of the air traffic control room at the time of the incident, which is now the subject of a CAAN investigation.
Recent Yeti Airlines accident
At the beginning of the year, Nepal saw a fatal accident involving a regional scheduled flight.
On January 15 this year, Yeti Airlines flight YT691 crashed while attempting to land at Pokhara Airport in Nepal.
The aircraft, a twin-engine turboprop ATR72-500 had been on a scheduled flight from Kathmandu with 68 passengers and four crew members on board.
All occupants of the passenger flight died when the aircraft crashed during the final phase of its approach to the newly opened Pokhara International Airport.
Challenging aviation environment
Air safety has been a major concern in Nepal due to its challenging terrain and difficult weather conditions.
The country’s aviation industry has experienced incidents and accidents in the past. However, the Nepalese government has taken several steps to improve air safety in recent years.
In 2018, the crash of a Bangladeshi passenger plane at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport resulted in the deaths of 51 people.
The accident prompted a review of the country’s air safety standards, with the Nepalese government taking swift action to tighten regulations and improve safety procedures.
In 2019, a helicopter crash in the Annapurna region resulted in the deaths of all seven people on board, including four South Koreans. The accident was attributed to poor visibility caused by bad weather.
Since then, Nepal has made steady progress in enhancing air safety, with a focus on improving training and equipment for pilots, air traffic controllers, and maintenance crews.
The country’s aviation authorities have also worked closely with international agencies to improve safety standards and implement best practices.
To improve safety, Nepal has invested in new technology and equipment, including the installation of more sophisticated navigation systems at major airports.
The country has also established a well-equipped search and rescue system that includes helicopters and other resources to respond quickly to any incident.