A China-made MA60 plane landed at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), in Kathmandu on Thursday as Nepal Airline Corporation (NAC), took delivery of the third Chinese plane after a nearly two-year long hiccup.
NAC Spokesperson Shailesh Kansakar told Xinhua that the plane named Fewa with sign of 9N-AKR landed at TIA at 7:15 p.m. local time. NAC pilot Gopal Singh Bista flew the 56-seater plane all the way from China's Kunming to Dhaka, Bangladesh and to Kathmandu, according to the NAC.
A team of NAC, the national flag carrier, had reached China to take delivery of two planes, one MA60 and another 17-seater Y12e last week.
"The next plane will arrive on January 31," NAC Managing Director Sugat Ratna Kansakar told Xinhua.
As per an agreement signed between Nepal's flag carrier and Chinese supplier, AVIC International Holding, in December 2012, Nepal would acquire six Chinese aircraft, two in grants and four in loans.
Of them, the NAC had already acquired one MA60 and one 17-seater Y12e from the Chinese government as grant assistance in 2014. The plane arrived on Thursday is one that Nepal received under the loan from China Exim Bank. Of the six planes, Nepal's national flag carrier has to take delivery of two MA60 and four Y12e as per the agreement.
"We will take delivery of final two planes gradually," said NAC MD Kansakar.
The arrival of the new aircraft from China is expected to boost NAC's presence in domestic aviation market which had shrunk in recent years due to its depleting number of fleet.
MD Kanskar said he has not calculated how much market share the arrival of new planes from China would help to grow but it would definitely contribute in this regard. NAC had seen the strong passenger growth after it received the two Chinese-made aircraft in 2014.
Although the Chinese side had informed Nepal that planes Nepal had sought to acquire, are ready for delivery since 2015, the NAC had been delaying to take delivery arguing that it has some issues related to spare parts, training, load capacity and insurance with the supplier to be sorted out before taking delivery of those planes.
According to the NAC Chief Kansakar, they started taking delivery of remaining planes after the Chinese supplier agreed in writing to address their concerns.
According to Kansakar, they would fly the Chinese planes in 20 domestic airports where load factor would not be any issue.
Earlier in October 2016, Nepal's Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Ministry instructed the NAC to take delivery of remaining planes as early as possible by sorting out any issue with the supplier.
Both NAC and Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), the aviation sector regulator of Nepal, have said they have not found any faults in Chinese aircraft in their technical and technological strength.
CAAN has given type certificate to the Chinese planes which means the aircraft is manufactured according to an approved design, and that the design ensures compliance with airworthiness requirements. In a recently interview with Xinnua, Kansakar praised the Chinese aircraft of being much cheaper compared to similar aircraft from other manufacturers.