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Chinese planes face hard landing at junkyard

KATHMANDU, Nepal – Nepal Airlines intends to sell its Chinese planes, which have become an albatross around its neck, for a scrapyard price, according to an insider.

The six aircraft were purchased between 2014 and 2018 with grants and loans totaling Rs 6.66 billion. One of the planes later crashed. In an apparent bid to get rid of the remaining five aircraft as quickly as possible, the national flag carrier is asking Rs220 million for them.

Nepal Airlines officials claim the grounded planes – two 56-seat MA60s and three 17-seat Y12s – have caused more trouble than they’re worth.

Operating the aircraft was a massive financial strain on the debt-ridden company as bankruptcies and pilot shortages plagued it. The state-owned carrier decided enough was enough and placed them all in deep storage in July 2020.

According to a highly placed source at Nepal Airlines Corporation, an independent international appraiser has fixed the current price at Rs 220 million.

“It’s scrap value,” the official said.

“Now everyone is in a bind, including the Nepal Airlines board, which is hesitant to agree to sell the planes at such a low price,” said a tourism ministry official, who did not want to be identified because the appraisal report is highly confidential.

He said several reports have pointed out that the Chinese planes were not viable, commercially or technically. “It is not possible to fly them. The only option is to sell them.”

Several reports, he said, had indicated that the Chinese-made aircraft were not commercially or technically viable. “According to reports, it is not possible to fly them. The only alternative is to sell them.”

Officials said the Chinese-made planes became “the most expensive white elephants in the airline’s history” as soon as they arrived. They are skeptical that anyone will buy them.

The national flag carrier leased the Chinese planes on 14 September 2022. The deadline for potential bidders was 31 October. Because no bids were received, the deadline was extended to November 16.

The management decided to sell them because there were no takers even after the deadline extension.

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