The ailing national flag-carrier Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) is going to get a new lease of life. If everything goes as planned, it will have a new aircraft by in one-and-a-half years. NAC is not only planning to buy a single aircraft but a fleet of six aircraft over a duration of the next five years.
"Initially, one aircraft would be delivered by the first half of 2010, if all goes according to plan," said NAC managing director Sugat Ratna Kansakar. "But over a period of five years – at intervals of six to nine months -- we will acquire a complete fleet of six brand new aircraft," he added.
There has been a long debate on whether to buy or lease new aircraft. NAC had earlier in the late '80s got two Boeings 757 on lease. NAC, then known as Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation (RNAC) got the Boeings, Karnali in 1987 and Gandaki in 1988. After the people's movement in 1990, the successive governments of Nepali Congress and Nepal Communist Party (United Marxist-Leninist) leased aircraft -- from Lauda Airlines and China South Western Airlines amid a gamut of controversy.
But the present Maoist-led government has decided to buy brand new aircraft instead of leasing planes. "We are buying brand new aircraft from either Boeing or Airbus -- both global aircraft manufacturing companies directly," Kansakar said adding that the national flag carrier has also held several rounds of talks with representatives of both the aircraft manufacturing companies.
Though NAC has more or less decided on the model it is yet to decide from which manufacturer to buy. "Depending on the type of deal, we will go for either Airbus or Boeing," he said. "Apart from that, we are also working out the financing aspect," he added.
In his budget speech for the fiscal year 2008-09, Finance Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai had assured that the government would guarantee to get the necessary funding to purchase two large aircraft for NAC in order to enhance the international seats capacity and make services more timely and reliable.
But for the timebeing NAC is bringing aircraft in wetlease.
On the eve of Nepal Tourism Year 2011, Nepal badly needs new aircraft as the two present ageing aircraft, time and again, keep hitting technical glitches, forcing NAC to cancel flights.