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PIA working to restore public confidence after the crash

PIA working to restore public confidence after the crash
After a devastating plane crash near the Pokhara Airport in January, various assumptions were made about its cause raising serious safety concerns. In response, Pokhara International Airport Civil Aviation Office (PIA CAO) has taken various emergency measures to dispel those concerns and regain public confidence. Although the number of arrivals is still below the levels seen before the crash, officials at PIA CAO report that the numbers are gradually increasing. Their main focus at this time is to reassure people of their safety and security, as the crash was not caused by any safety issues at the airport. Bikram Gautam, the Chief of PIA CAO, emphasized that safety is the topmost priority for the airport administration, and they are taking all necessary measures to ensure it. He further stated that the airport is actively working to address any misconceptions about safety measures and to reassure the public of their safety while using the airport. The official investigation into the cause of the Yeti Air crash near the newly built international airport is still ongoing. While there is no denying that the incident has caused people to lose confidence in air travel, efforts are being made to restore public trust and increase the number of passengers.

According to eyewitnesses, they did not hear any sound from the plane before the sudden blast, even though it was approaching very close to their homes. "Maybe the plane had an engine problem, otherwise we would have heard the sound when it approached our dwellings," Ramesh Khatri, a local resident of Hariyokharka in Pokhara-15, said.

Ganesh Poudel, a local resident of Chauthe in Pokhara-14, speculated that the plane may have collided with birds crossing the runway, as he frequently sees birds approaching the airport. Some locals share this concern, while others believe that the airport's design is not suitable for the climatic conditions of the Pokhara valley. Before transitioning to the newly constructed international airport at Chauthe in Pokhara-14, the Pokhara Airport used to handle more than 2,500 passengers every day, which would double during the tourist season. However, this year the maximum number of passengers per day is limited to around 1500, even though the tourist season has already begun. “But this number cannot be considered low. Even in the initial stage of operation, the airport has succeeded in accommodating this number of passengers," said Yashoda Regmi, the spokesperson for the PIA CAO. On the other hand, tourism stakeholders say that they have experienced a loss of passengers in the two months following the crash. Hari Ram Adhikari, president of the Nepal Association of Tours and Travel Agents (NATTA) Gandaki Chapter, said almost 80 percent of clients had canceled their flights in the initial days after the crash. “Most of those who canceled their air tickets were Nepali people, while the impact on foreigners was minimal,” he said. "Foreigners did not seem fearful after the crash; they accepted it as an incident." According to Adhikari, the number of travelers choosing air travel is gradually increasing, not only because they are forgetting the accident day by day but also due to additional facilities and safety measures put in place by the airport administration. Pokhara International Airport is taking significant measures to restore people's confidence and make the approach slope free of birds. It recently installed a bird inspection device around the runway and also recruited a bird hunter. It has also installed a siren system that alerts officials if birds are on the runway. Likewise, the airport administration is collaborating with local bodies and stakeholders to clean up the rivers, lakes, and ponds in the Pokhara area. It has already sent request letters to all local government agencies in this regard. The airport management has been meeting frequently with local stakeholders to discuss ways to improve the Pokhara International Airport. "We are committed to conveying the reality to people first. Therefore, we are taking some additional measures that were not in our annual plan," Gautam said. According to airport officials, there are still many tasks to be completed before the airport can operate at full capacity. "Preparations are ongoing to make agreements with international airlines. Some airlines will be operating soon," Jagannath Niroula, the spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority Nepal (CAAN), said. Recently, the airport successfully completed a 60-day procedure for testing international standard mechanisms and has been enlisted in the Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP). It has recently started Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) and also begun night landing and take off. The airport officials claim that PIA is the first airport in the country to have a Distance Measuring Equipment and Instrument Landing System.