/THE MAN WITH A PLAN: Raj Kumar Chhetri General Manager of Tribhuwan International Airport

THE MAN WITH A PLAN: Raj Kumar Chhetri General Manager of Tribhuwan International Airport

  1. How would you deal with the never ending accuses and bad rating of TIA?

I have been to many countries, inspected their airports and compared it with our country’s international airport, I accept that lots of things aren’t proper here but not even that much to be called a ‘cowshed’ or something like that. I don’t say ours is a perfect airport, there are tons of things to be looked upon. We have been working on it seriously now and there are few projects running and will completely renovate the airport in maximum of 2 years.

  1. To what extent are you satisfied with the services of TIA?

I don’t think you should ever be completely satisfied with something. If there would have been satisfaction while inventing something like airplanes or cars or some other technological inventions, we wouldn’t have been enjoying the world as it is right now. If I or any other officials from TIA would have been satisfied with the services, we wouldn’t be trying to renovate TIA. And also we are not the ones who need to be satisfied but the people, the guests and the foreigners who come to the country with great expectations, need to be satisfied. We know we have been falling back in lots of things but there are few things that have been looked after. For example, few years back people would have to carry luggages on their hand due to scarcity of trolleys but now there are plenty of them serving everyone equally. The toilets were extremely dirty and unusable but it is clean and well maintained now.

  1. How are you planning to manage the congestion situation of TIA?

Yes, that’s a very good question which I and lots of other officials have been worried about. This is the matter which I am the most worried about after being in the post of General Manager. Kathmandu valley is like a bowl which is surrounded by mountains and hills from all the side and we have one airport and a runway in the middle. Kathmandu approach is not as easy as landing in flat lands. There’s no easy access to it. If an aircraft is coming in to land and if it misses its approach then it must travel a certain distance towards north, make a turn and approach from the same place as it did before. There have been incident before because of the high terrains and mountains in the north. So what we have been planning to do now is to make another airport somewhere near the valley where mountain flights and STOL flights could operate. We have been trying very hard on that and we have also looked for few places, I hope something will figure out soon. Another thing we have been trying to do is the ATC time declaration where ATCs will be monitored to see how many flights they can handle in an hour and manage the schedules accordingly. For example if they can handle 35 flights in an hour, only 35 aircraft will be given permission for startup, which will prevent other aircrafts from waiting in line for such many hours which is exactly what’s happening now. We also are planning to operate flights in the night if everything goes right, that will help to decrease a lot of congestion.

  1. How would you like to describe the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal?

Well I am a part of this organization since over two decades now and seriously saying, no one had ever thought that CAAN will progress in this way and reach here. Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal has totally changed its face which has made Nepalese sky a lot safer and better. Right now CAAN has been operating as the regulatory and service providing body under the same organization but soon we are planning for segregation which will divide CAAN into two parts where one will look after the Regulations and other will work as a service provider. Service provider will be oriented for airports and regulatory body will be oriented for maintaining aviation laws and regulations.

  1. Parking space congestion and increasing air traffic have created lots of problems at TIA? What measures do you think can be brought to improve it?

Right now, we have a total of 9 parking bays in TIA and immediately we are adding two new bays at the south of our terminal and it will be ready to accommodate jet aircrafts within 6 to 8 months now. Also within a year we are making a remote parking area in the east of our runway which will be large enough to accommodate 3 ATR-72’s and two Boeing 737’s or Airbus A320’s. And that will solve the current parking congestion problem very effectively. We are also shifting the helipad three hundred meters further where two other wide body aircraft will accommodate so what I can assure is that within one year, TIA will see some drastic changes which will eradicate both air traffic and paring bay congestion.

  1. What are you expectations for upcoming bigger international Airport projects?

Kathmandu airport has been utilized far more than its capacity now and we all have been expecting other international airports in Nepal since very long. The way air traffic and aviation is boosting up in the world, we are lagging back and not being able to match the development of aviation. I am very excited to see the projects running and I hope this will boost our country’s aviation to a whole new level. There are three international airport projects running in Bhairawa, Pokhara and Nijgad and these airports are necessary to cope with the aviation growth in the country and also all over the world. Also the flight diversions from TIA will not take flights to India or Bangladesh, instead they can be diverted to these airports which will save a lot of fuel and time for the airlines. So the future is very bright for Nepalese aviation industry.

  1. In your view, how does Nepali aviation future look like?

In my view, the future of Nepalese aviation is very bright. After few years, there will be no need for young people of Nepal to go some Arab countries looking for job. We will have plenty of opportunities in our own country and I think tourism will completely change the face of the country. Aviation is growing rapidly here which will definitely bring some positive changes in the country very soon.

  1. What would you like to say about ongoing aviation fuel issue in Nepal?

The ongoing aviation fuel issue is not only faced by our country, not only by Asia but the whole world. We cannot stop these price hikes as we too import the fuel from other countries in the world. If they raise the price then we have to accept that. But another thing I would like to add is that, solar energy has been tested in aircraft recently and it has been a huge success making aviation possible from solar energy. I really appreciate these innovative minds and I hope this will completely change the world of aviation in upcoming 20 years which will definitely minimize the fuel issues we are having right now.

  1. What suggestion would you give to Domestic Airlines of Nepal?

We are surprised by the way domestic airlines market is increasing in Nepal. We are very happy to see their progress. The airlines have been trying to add new aircraft to their fleet in such a way that we have stopped giving them permissions because of the congestions and air traffic issues. I was surprised when an aviation expert from India said to me that, he would like to learn the way domestic airlines in Nepal are operating! He was seriously impressed by the way they operate here. It’s a very good thing for a country like Nepal where tourism flourishes all around the year. It’s just that the domestic airlines should be a little more focused on time management and the air fares that they declare. I think the air fare comparing it to the distance travelled doesn’t do justice in Nepal. If these things are managed then the future of domestic airlines is very bright.

  1. Any suggestions for our government run airlines of Nepal, Nepal Airlines Corporation?

Nepal airlines has been working for social motive rather than the business motive which is a very good thing for the people here but I think government should also manage some subsidiaries for them so that they can function properly. It is the flag carrier of the nation so I think the doors should be widened for NAC to function properly and land itself some place in the international market as well.

  1. Any message for the aviation enthusiasts?

Being a person from the aviation field, what I suggest to the aviation enthusiasts right now is that, this is the ripest moment for young people to join the this field. There’s a concept right now called future generation aviation professionalism (FGAP) which has published a survey which shows that number of passengers travelling by air will reach trillions in twenty years. We need millions of manpower for this to operate properly. This is the best time to join the aviation industry whether as a pilot or air traffic controllers or cabin crews or engineers and other different profession aviation has to offer. We also have successfully managed to open an aviation museum in partnership with Capt. Bed Uprety in sinamangal just so we could aware people about aviation and its future. I would like to say that this is the right time to all the aviation lovers.

  1. Any suggestions or message for our Sky Diary Nepal?

You people are doing fantastic job. I am glad that you guys have come up with a magazine that promotes the aviation and tourism of Nepal. I expect you guys to include topics and contents that will excite readers from all around the world. Genuinity is very important. Keep up the good work. Good luck for future endeavors.