Ban rampant chopper use on Everest: CAAN

KATHMANDU: A high-level committee formed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal has recommended the government to come up with a strict rule to ban rampant use of helicopters above Mt Everest Base Camp, urging the authorities to permit such flights only for rescue missions.The committee that studied the flights made by different companies from April 18 to May 31 above the Base Camp also suggested that CAAN’s permission should be made mandatory to conduct flights for other purposes in the region.A three-member committee led by senior pilot Gunj Man Lama was formed on May 28 after Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation ordered CAAN to probe rampant use of choppers in the Everest region as revealed by this daily.

The panel found that Fishtail Air conducted number of flights above the Base Camp on May 8, 10, 14, 18 and 25, while Simrik Air operated 9N-AKF on April 26 for sorties to the higher camps. “These routine flights were conducted as per the Air Operator Certificate issued by CAAN,” the report said. An AOC authorises an operator to carry out specified commercial air transport operations.

“CAAN forwarded its probe report to the ministry for further action two days ago,” Director General Ratish Chandra Lal Suman told THT. Contrary to Suman’s claims, ministry’s aviation industry division chief Suresh Acharya said his office had not received the study report till this evening. “Ministry will take necessary action after getting CAAN’s report.”

The chopper use kicked up a row after Chinese climber Wang Jing flew to Camp 2 from the Base Camp, along with seven Sherpas, during her ascent to Mt Everest this spring.

Wang had chartered more than a dozen flights. Most of them with call sign 9N-AJI were piloted by Italian national Maurizio Folini starting May 10, bypassing the most treacherous icefall route during her summit. American climber Cleo Weidlich also flew to Camp 2 from Gorak Shep on May 8 but later abandoned her bid to scale Mt Lhotse.

Wang is planning to visit Nepal by the end of this month to collect her certificate. Mountaineering fraternity, including expedition operators, stand united against Wang, saying she flouted climbing norms and ethics to degrade Everest popularity. But MoTCA Joint Secretary Madhusudan Burlakoti said she had the right to obtain summit certificate.

Wang, who initially tried to hide information on helicopter ride, later owned up to it, claiming she was left with no other option to reach Camp 2.

CAAN’s aviation safety department officials, however, hinted that action against helicopter companies was unlikely due to lack of specific laws.

The report recommended that to ensure action there had to be a rule to allow only rescue flights above the Base Camp.

Source: The Himalayan Times
Date: 25 June, 2014

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