KATHMANDU, 04 NOV 2014Â Â – Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) on Monday received a Chinese-made 18-seater Y-12e aircraft as part of a six-aircraft deal between Nepal and China.
The delivery of the twin-engine turboprop utility plane, a gift from China, was delayed by four months. It was built by Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation, China. The aircraft has been named Koilee which means â€œcuckooâ€ in the Nepali language.
Bearing the Nepali registration number 9N-AKS, the aircraft landed at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in the afternoon. With the induction of the new plane, the ailing national flag carrier now boasts four aircraft in its domestic fleet including two Twin Otters and an MA60.
As NAC plans to serve short take-off and landing (STOL) airfields with the Y-12e, government officials said it would take some time to bring it into commercial operation due to unfinished paperwork regarding airport design standards.
The Y-12e is powered by PT6A-135A engines. It received Type Certification from the Civil Aviation Administration of China in 2002. The aircraft made its first flight in August 2001. The Y-12e currently flies in more than 15 countries. Experts said that the Y-12e would be a fitting alternative to the Twin Otter which are being phased out.
This model was certified by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on August 2, 2006. FAA utility airport design standards allow maximum grades of up to 2 percent or about 1.2 degrees of slope.
However, since most STOL airfields in Nepal including Lukla have an uphill gradient of 12 percent, the aircraft needs to be certified by the manufacturer to fly to such airports, said a government official.
NAC Managing Director Madan Kharel said that they would have to abide with the international regulation and said that certification of the aircraft to use STOL airfields would be completed soon.
Kharel said that the Y-12 aircraft had already served STOL fields in Nepal in the past, and that it would not take much time to complete the test flights with the given aircraft specifications. â€œWe have planned to begin commercial operation after 10 days if all the processes are completed.â€
The delivery of the first batch of Y-12e had been originally set for June 30. However, drawing a lesson from the two-month delay in getting its MA60 aircraft into service due to inadequate paperwork, NAC has pushed back the delivery date of the Y-12e to have ample time to prepare the necessary documentation.
The MA60, which arrived in Kathmandu on April 27, was forced to take an extended rest at TIA as NAC officials scrambled to get various documents in order, of which they said they were not aware as requirements had changed in the 27 years since they last acquired new aircraft.
Kharel said that the remaining four aircraft on order — three Y-12e and an MA60 — would be arriving in Nepal in three months.
The national flag carrier, which has been incurring losses amounting to Rs 170 million annually by serving unprofitable remote hubs, hopes for a dramatic revival after the delivery of its six Chinese-made aircraft.
According to TIA, there were 1.54 million domestic flyers last year. Of the total travellers, Nepal Airlines flew 20,591, down 44.15 percent from the previous year.