Buddha Air: 26 Years of Service for the Nation

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Buddha Air: 26 Years of Service for the Nation

As Buddha Air reaches its 26 years of operation in October 2023, there are a lot of milestones to look back at. The achievements and successes of Nepal’s most popular airlines have not come easily. It is the result of years of investment in safety and quality. Buddha Air has become a household name in the Nepali aviation sector and is recognized for its trust and safety. It had its humble beginnings, but Buddha Air has grown today as an important contributor to the travel and aviation sector of Nepal. 

How it Began 

The initiation of Buddha Air began from 11 October, 1997 with the maiden flight of a Beechcraft 1900D for a mountain flight carrying 16 passengers. The flight was operated by two pilots, Captain RK Sharma and an American Pilot, Captain Kevin St. Germain. The flight BHA 100 took its hour-long flight to Mount Everest and back successfully, which hadn’t been achieved by any other airlines in its maiden flight. This brought confidence in Buddha Air to put its operations in motion. 

The Founder 

The credit for the establishment of Buddha Air as a company goes to the Late Surendra Bahadur Basnet. He came from a humble background, growing up in a humble Nepali family in Bhojpur. He went on to achieve many great things even before establishing Buddha Air. He earned his LLB and BSC degrees at Varanasi Hindu University and after completing his studies, he served as Supreme Court Justice, Chief Election Commissioner, Minister for Law, Justice and Education, and Minister for Finance, Industry, Commerce & Supplies. He was also the First Chairman of the Press Council Nepal and the Legal Commission. He passed away on December 25, 2022.

He established the company with his two sons after realising the need and the growing demand for air transport in Nepal. Today, the company continues to create legacies under the leadership of Late Basnet’s elder son, Chairperson, Birendra Bahadur Basnet. 

Services Provided by Buddha Air 

Throughout the years, Buddha Air has focused on providing the best services to its passengers. The airline’s main priority is safety and comfort. By understanding that each individual has their own special needs and requirements, Buddha Air has extended its services to make it accessible for all without excluding any groups or abilities. As a result, Buddha Air provides these special assistance services: 

1. Special Needs 

 Buddha Air offers facilities for people with special needs. This includes senior citizens with limited mobilities, wheelchair users or requirements for stretchers. It also caters to passengers carrying Portable Oxygen Cylinders (POC). Those who require such services are required to state their needs during ticket booking. 

2. Pregnant Women 

 In order to ensure that the flight is safe and comfortable for a pregnant woman and their unborn child, Buddha Air has taken specific considerations. Pregnant women up to 28 weeks are allowed to fly without documentation. While women who are 28 to 36 weeks pregnant are required to present a medical certificate. This is done to ensure safety. Pregnant women are also offered first boarding and check-in, while the cabin crew make sure to provide them with maximum comfort. 

3. Unaccompanied Minors 

 Unaccompanied minors can fly on Buddha Air with the help of the staff who will make sure that the child will reach their destination safely even without an accompanying adult. This service is offered to children aged 5 to 12. This service can be provided to children above 12 years also if requested. 

4. Travelling with Pets 

 It is possible for a passenger to bring their pet along in a flight. Buddha Air offers services for flying pets under certain conditions.

The Timeline 

The success and popularity of Buddha Air is a result of its steady growth since 1997. There have been many significant events over the years that have led to the company’s advancement. 

1996: Buddha Air Pvt Ltd was registered 

1997: The first flight took off from Tribhuvan International Airport. It was a mountain flight on a Beechcraft 1900D 9N-AEE which had two pilots and 16 passengers. 

2008: IFC provided a 10-year loan to purchases two ATR 42-320 aircraft and build an international standard hanger at TIA

2009: A third aircraft was bought, the ATR 42-300 

2010: The fleet was further expanded to include the ATR 72-500 (9N-AJO)

2011: Added another fleet ATR 72-500 (9N-AJS). It was also the year when a fatal crash occurred on September 25, 2011

2012: Expanded the fleet to include ATR 72-500 (9N-AJX)

2014: The Hangar Construction Project that was ongoing at TIA won the IPMA Excellence Award. Flight between Kathmandu and Varanasi was initiated 

2016: The company completed the AvMaSSI OSA program compromising of a harmonised series of international practices based on ICAO Annexes 

2017: Another fleet was added, the ATR 72-500(9N-AMD)

2018: The fleet was expanded with two more ATR 72-500s (9N-AMF and 9N-AMU)

2019: Expanded the fleet to include ATR 72-500 (9N-AMY and 9N-ANI)

2021: Expanded the fleet to include ATR 72-500 (9N-ANH and 9N-AJL)

2022: Expanded the fleet to include ATR 72-500 (9N-ANP) 

2023: Expanded the fleet to include ATR 72-500 (9N-ANQ and 9N-ANW)

Farewell to the Beechcraft 1900D

The Beechcraft 1900D (9N-AEE) was one of the first two aircraft of Buddha Air. After 25 years of operation, its journey came to an end for Nepali skies. However, the aircraft will continue to function in Canada. The Beechcraft was sold to a Canadian company after several inspections. The Canadian company stated that the aircraft’s quality and maintenance surpassed their expectations and it was in optimal performance condition. Their statement justifies the fact that an aircraft’s age is not determined by its manufactured date but rather by its inspection and maintenance. An old aircraft can also fly safely if regular safety audits and inspections are done. 

Buddha Air now has 16 aircrafts all from the ATR family. However, the first aircraft, the Beechcraft, created a legacy for its first flight for Buddha Air. 

Trainings and Staff Development 

Buddha Air has taken serious consideration into the safety of flights, its crew and the passengers. The operational department of Buddha Air is responsible for ensuring flight safety, accident prevention, and crew member training. This department ensures that all requirements set by the Civil Aviation Association of Nepal (CAAN) are being met. 

Buddha Air invests approximately $600,000 on various training activities. This also includes providing six-axis simulators for crew training and required refreshers. Recently, a batch of instructor pilots successfully completed their bi-annual training program at the headquarters of the ATR manufacturer in Toulouse, France. This training tests the efficiency of the pilots in an ATR simulation. Although CAAN has recently made this training compulsory for all airlines in Nepal, Buddha Air had been providing training to their pilots long before it was made compulsory. 

International Standard Hangar 

The Buddha Air Hangar was established in 2012 AD in the Tribhuvan International Airport. It is the only international closed-door hangar facility in Nepal. It was built with an investment of $2.5 million. The hangar covers a large area of 37,000 square feet. It holds international standard certifications and houses the largest collection of spare parts for aircraft among all private airline companies in Nepal. 

The hangar has also provided services to other airlines such as NOVOAir of Bangladesh and Druk Air of Bhutan. It has also provided services to Himalayan Airlines and several domestic carriers. 

Buddha Air in Numbers

16 - Total aircraft in fleet, all of which  include the ATR, one of the most efficient aircraft for regional travel 
15 - Buddha Air flies to 15 national and international flight destinations
43 - Buddha Air connects to 43 flight routes in all major cities and significant destinations in Nepal and one in India
611,762 - Number of flights operated between October 1997 and September 2022
327,397 - The total hours of flight had reached to 3,27,397 hours by September 2022
13.6 million - Buddha Air has flown 13.6 million passengers including domestic and foreign travellers 
100 - Buddha Air operates over 100 flights in a day

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