Nepal Airlines to sell 5 Chinese turboprops
Nepal Airlines will sell five Chinese-made turboprops at a loss. The planes in question are unairworthy and have been grounded for years. The airline has tried to lease them before but has had no takers. They have been a financial burden on the airline, which is already saddled with huge debt. The airline admits demand for the planes is weak and will have to sell them for far less than it paid a decade ago.
The Nepalese Ministry of Finance owns all five aircraft. They were originally purchased for the airline to use on underserved mountain routes. The aircraft offered for sale include two MA60 aircraft and three Y12e aircraft. The plane was not in service long before being grounded. The aircraft have had an unusually high number of maintenance issues for their age, and spare parts are hard to find for this aircraft. In addition to maintenance dilemmas, the airline struggled to find enough qualified pilots to fly the planes let alone flight instructors capable of teaching other pilots to fly the plane.
In July 2020, the airline’s management announced that it would ground all Chinese-made aircraft. In December 2020, the airline petitioned Nepal’s Ministry of Civil Aviation in hopes that it would receive permission to part ways with the aircraft. After being grounded for two years, the airline has finally received clearance.
Attempts to say goodbye
For these reasons, the Ministry of Finance approved Nepal Airlines’ request to lease the aircraft to another air carrier. The aircraft were leased on September 14. The only parties eligible to bid on a lease must have a valid air operator certificate and at least one aircraft in their fleet. If another air carrier were to lease the planes, it would be a bareboat lease, meaning the lessor would be responsible for providing flight and cabin crew.
The bidding period was to end on October 31. However, neither party seriously considered leasing the planes, leading the airline to put them up for sale this week. Before the plane became available for lease, the finance ministry asked the airline to sell the plane at a loss if a lessor didn’t show up, as they had been burning a hole in its wallet for years. Both parties recognize that the longer these planes remain unairworthy, the less valuable they will be. A former board member of Nepal Airlines, Ashok Pokhrel, said:
“Without a doubt, planes can fly. It was a management problem that the shiny new planes never flew for the purpose for which they were brought in,
“Now, years after they’ve been acquired, it’s wise to sell them rather than keep them in storage,
“If planes start to rust, they will become scrap metal.”
Several aircraft have already begun to show signs of corrosion. The next owner will likely use the planes for parts instead of bothering to restore them to airworthy condition. The airline’s experience with these aircraft has shown that aftermarket support is limited, leading many operators to opt to acquire aircraft produced by well-established Western manufacturers.
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