A sculpture or a curio piece, or a fine art masterpiece, makes for a museum of art or history. By this logic, you need a real aircraft to build a good aviation museum. For proof, visit the Aviation Museum at Sinamangal in Kathmandu.The frame of a dead aircraft and its dead engine come to life at this museum, the first of its kind in Nepal. The dead frame of a Turkish Airlines Airbus that skidded off the runway in Kathmandu in 2015 was dismantled, reassembled and fashioned into an aviation museum, right next to the country’s only international airport. When you visit this unique museum, you will feel like being inside a real airplane.
Launched in November 2017, the museum was established by Bed Upreti Trust—a non-profit jointly founded by Captain Bed Uprety—and the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal. A pilot and an aviation instructor in Indonesia, Uprety wanted to interest the Nepali youth in the field of aviation, and he reckoned an aviation museum would be the perfect way to do so.
The museum’s exhibits include the aircraft’s original cockpit setting, various aircraft models, and items documenting the history of Nepali aviation.
The Turkish Airlines plane, Airbus 330-300, had flown for about eight months before meeting a mishap at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu in March 2015. It cost Rs 70 million to convert the useless outer-frame into a museum.
The museum has a lot to offer to visitors. It is the perfect place to educate yourself on Nepali aviation or to take your child who is fascinated about flying. The main attraction are probably the miniature airplanes and model helicopters displayed inside. Recently, a fun park for children has been built right outside the museum.
The Airbus has four sections. In the welcome hall, visitors are shown a documentary on the museum’s history. It gives information about airport model, cargo compartment, cabin crew, pilot training, and aviation safety. Then there is an air force hall imitating a fighter plane that served in both the world wars. Next is an airlines hall with models of aircraft operated by Nepal Airlines. Lastly, the manufacture and refreshment hall displays plane models developed by students of aircraft engineering.
Ticket prices are reasonable. Nepali citizens pay Rs 250, handicapped and older citizens Rs 125, SAARC country nationals Rs 250, and foreigners Rs 500. Entry fee is waived for students of grade 9-12 who carry a letter from their schools. All students with valid ID cards get 50 percent off. You may also get photographed as an airhostess or a pilot by paying nominal fees.
The museum opens 10 am-5 am, October to February, and 9:30 am-6:30 pm, March to September.
The place is popular with school children these days. “It’s astonishing to witness the excitement of the little children who come here. They have so many questions and I feel happy answering them as it reminds me of my own childhood," says Anisha Neupane, an employee at the museum.
“We want to encourage youngsters to pursue careers in aviation and engineering,” said Uprety, who is also the chief executive officer of the museum.
Despite all the hard work with the museum, there is always room for improvement. One such area is food prices. A disappointed visitor was heard saying: “For a place dedicated to children and students, the restaurant here is quite expensive. The prices need to go down.”