Nepal Airlines (RA, Kathmandu) has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for three short take-off and landing (STOL) aircraft. The RFP, formally titled NAC-PURCHASE/ 01/STOL/80-8, was issued on October 22, 2023, and invites bids from STOL aircraft manufacturers who wish to participate in the single-stage, two-envelope bidding process.

The state-owned airline seeks brand-new aircraft with zero flight hours and no more than 25 hours of flying for test flight performance. The RFP documentation stipulates a minimum engine capacity of 620 shaft horsepower that can provide at least 4,000 hours of flying before any mandatory overhaul. The aircraft must be able to operate on runways of 1,500 feet or less, be FAA and EASA approved, and come with a fully integrated digital avionics package (including an FDR, a CVR, a 406 MHz ELT with latitude and longitude transmission, HF Radio, and a second ADF radio).

Each aircraft must be able to carry a minimum of 18 passengers plus one cabin crew. All passenger seats should be able to be removed/folded and reinstalled when necessary. Stretcher capacity should also be facilitated. Aircraft types with a true airspeed of less than 180 KTAS will be disqualified, as will any aircraft type not acceptable to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN).

"The aircraft must be delivered in fully airworthy condition and shall have accomplished all applicable airworthiness directives, mandatory service bulletins/modifications published and effective on the date of delivery which requires compliance within 12 months from the date of delivery," the RFP says. The airline also requires the aircraft to have a minimum one-year (or 1,200 flight hours) warranty for the airframe and engines and a minimum three-year warranty for the avionics package.

The bidder must submit certain financial and production information, including three year's worth of audited balance sheets and income statements, and detail their minimum average annual turnover for the past three years. In addition, the bidder must demonstrate that they have been manufacturing STOL aircraft for the past ten years. The aircraft type offered must also have been in production for at least ten years, and the manufacturer needs to have sold at least 75 of them.

Nepal Airlines buys aircraft because lessors are generally unwilling to place aircraft into the market. Nepal's Minister for Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation, Sudan Kiranti, has told Kathmandu-based outlets that he wants to acquire up to ten aircraft for Nepal Airlines over the next twelve months. The airline is now operating just six aircraft - two A320-200s, two A330-200s, and two DHC-6-300s. The minister argues that the small fleet is hampering the airline's ability to serve existing passenger demand effectively and is a barrier to growth and profitability. "Without this, tourists will not come," he said. "There is no alternative other than adding aircraft to the airline."

Prospective suppliers of the three STOL aircraft must submit two separate sealed envelopes, one containing the technical bid and the other the financial bid. A non-refundable fee of USD100 must accompany the submission, and it must be received at Nepal Airlines' Kathmandu offices by 1200L (0800Z) on December 5, 2023.