Aviation: Despite the government increasing the pay for a critical aviation regulatory post to Nu 125,000 a month, the Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) has not been able to attract and recruit an airworthiness inspector.

Airworthiness inspectors, according to the regional aviation safety oversight organisation, COSCAP-SA, are divided into two areas: maintenance and engineers.

For a maintenance airworthiness inspector, duties include routine surveillance and auditing of airline personnel and equipment, and enforcing compliance of regulations, among others. Besides sharing some of the same roles and responsibilities, an engineer airworthiness inspector approves modifications, repairs and other engineering activities to aircraft, and investigates aircraft accidents when required, among other tasks.

Currently, the BCAA is staffed with only one qualified airworthiness inspector, and three unqualified ones.

According to COSCAP-SA’s airworthiness inspector manual, a rough rule of thumb is one airworthiness inspector per approximately five aircraft of a particular type. A suitable option is also to have one airworthiness inspector for every ten aircraft, when two or more types of aircraft are combined. However, it is also pointed out that the total number should depend on other factors like complexity of air operations.

Currently, six fixed wing aircraft of two types operate out of Paro airport, with a further type expected by November, with the arrival of Bhutan’s first helicopter.

BCAA director, Wangdi Gyaltshen, said that the authority had received no interested candidates. “Which means nobody is interested for that amount,” he said.

The director said that the authority will request the government to further increase the pay.

In an earlier interview, the director had said a range of between Nu 250,000-300,000 would be required.

With the first chopper expected to arrive in November, the BCAA will also be responsible for inspecting and auditing its maintenance and engineering.

“We’re not,” Wangdi Gyaltshen said when asked if the authority would be able to oversee the rotary aircraft. “We’ve just one licensed airworthiness officer for fixed wing aircraft.”

But he pointed out that the authority is planning to send its only qualified inspector for two-week crash course to Singapore so that it can fulfil its role as a regulator.

He director said that inspecting and auditing a helicopter is “principally the same” as a fixed wing aircraft and that the airworthiness officer would only need to be type rated, which in aviation terminology basically means additional training.

The director also pointed out that the three unqualified airworthiness officers are being sent for a basic 10-month training by September end. The three will then receive on-the-job training for six months upon returning, which will be followed by a license exam. If they pass, they will become fully qualified airworthiness officers and would only be required to go for short courses to supplement whatever experience and knowledge they have acquired.

The director said that by then the BCAA will be adequately staffed with airworthiness inspectors.

In a significant development for the aviation industry in Bhutan, the regulator finally was able to recruit a flight safety officer, last month. The officer, a retired pilot from Greece, has already joined the BCAA. The recruitment was made possible only after the government also upped the monthly pay to Nu 400,000/month.

While the BCAA was functioning adequately with a senior flight safety officer for the past two decades, the officer lacked flying experience, which is required by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

The shortcomings in these two critical areas also contributed to Bhutan achieving a poor score on complying with international requirements. Bhutan was ranked the lowest in the South Asian region.

The BCAA was not able to retain its qualified flight safety officers and airworthiness inspectors given better pay being offered in the private sector, for instance, the national airlines, as airlines also require the same kind of personnel.

Gyalsten K Dorji