9-15 August 2013 #668

Taking off with China

SIAN CHOO TONG
China’s Exim Bank is going ahead with a Rs 15.5 billion loan for the much-delayed new airport in Pokhara and extending another loan for the purchase of Chinese-made turboprop aircraft for Nepal Airlines’ domestic operations.

Officials from the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Aviation, Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), and Nepal Airlines held talks with a Chinese delegation led by Exim Bank’s Deputy General Director Lee Dan on Tuesday in Kathmandu to finalise the deal.

China CAMC Engineering Company won the bid for the Pokhara airport last year with a quoted price of Rs 28.6 billion. However, when it was found that this was almost double the estimate by previous consultants, CAMC agreed to the lower amount. CAAN is now evaluating the CAMC feasibility for the airport and will come up with changes in the final project before construction begins. Only Chinese companies were allowed to bid for the project.

Nepal Airlines is also going ahead with the acquisition of four Y-12A STOL and two MA-60 turboprops from Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) Holdings for US$ 30.5 million. The MA60s were originally ordered for Nepal Army during the conflict and an advance had already been paid when there was regime change in Nepal in 2006 and the deal fell through.

Under the re-negotiated contract, China will provide one MA60 for free and Nepal Airlines will buy three Y12As and get one free. The state-owned airline plans to use MA-60s for trunk routes like Pokhara, Bhairawa, Biratnagar, Dhangadi, and Nepalganj and fly the Y12s to short remote area airstrips. But even here, CAAN needs to first provide airworthiness certificates for both planes.

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