Kathmandu plane crash is Nepal’s 9th flying disaster in 8 years: 5 striking facts to know

Wreckage of an airplane is pictured as rescue workers operate at Kathmandu airport, Nepal March 12, 2018. REUTERS/ Navesh Chitrakar

Wreckage of an airplane is pictured as rescue workers operate at Kathmandu airport, Nepal March 12, 2018. REUTERS/ Navesh Chitrakar

In the deadliest air disaster Nepal has witnessed in recent times, a plane operated by Bangladeshi airline US-Bangla crash-landed onto the field near the runway at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu on March 12, killing at least 49 passengers. About 71 people were on board the plane, which was arriving from Dhaka.

According to reports, there were 33 Nepali passengers, 32 Bangladeshi, one from China and one from the Maldives. About 22 people are undergoing treatment at various places in the country.

Though most air mishaps in Nepal have been attributed to weather vagaries, this was not the case on Monday. As a six-member committee probes the accident, five facts are striking:

Pilot took a wrong direction, says airport

The airport authorities have put the onus on the pilot. Airport general manager Raj Kumar Chettri said to The Himalayan Times that the pilot disregarded the messages sent out from the control room and came in from the wrong direction. The pilot was repeatedly asked whether there was any problem, but he didn’t report any problem. The pilot was told that his alignment was not correct, but there was allegedly no reply.

Director General of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, Sanjiv Gautam, said that the plane lost control when it was landing on the runway. “The aircraft was permitted to land from the southern side of the runway flying over Koteshwor, but it landed from the northern side,” he told BBC.

Pilot was misdirected: Airlines

US-Bangla Airlines chief executive Imran Asif has blamed Kathmandu air traffic control for issuing wrong directions. “Our pilot is an instructor of this Bombardier aircraft. His flight hours are over 5,000. There was a fumble from the control tower,” he said.

A recording of the conversation between the pilot and air traffic control minutes before the crash is available, which suggests that there was some misunderstanding before landing. According to The Hindu, the conversation suggested a possible confusion about “02” and “20”, the southern and northern ends of the only runway that the airport has. A Nepal army aircraft was also waiting to land at the time. Though the Bombardier pilot wanted to land on runway 20, runway 02 was made clear for him and the Nepal army aircraft was informed that the Bombardier was landing on runway 20.

Plane started to shake violently, recount survivors

This aircraft was a 17-year-old Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop flying from the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka and was being operated by Bangladeshi airline US-Bangla. According to a BBC report, witnesses said there was a loud bang while the plane was landing. It started shaking violently while people wept inside and chanted. The plane was moving up and down, right and left triggering panic among the security officials. As it crashed, a huge fire gripped the site.

One of the most dangerous airports

Tribhuvan International Airport is considered one of the most perilous airports in the world for there is a mountain behind the end of the runway and a deep gorge on the right side. In 2013, the European Union had banned Nepali airlines for failing “to adhere to the applicable international safety standards”. The ban has not been revoked.

Bombardier will fully support the investigation and provide further assistance to all authorities as needed. Statement available here:

Ninth mishap in eight years; deadliest since 1992

In August 2010, 14 people lost their lives on an Agni Air domestic flight from Kathmandu to Lukla.

In December 2010, 22 people in a Tara Air Twin Otter died during a domestic flight to Kathmandu.

In September 2011, Buddha Air lost a Beechcraft 1900, a sightseeing flight, and 19 people lost their lives.

In 2012, 15 of the 21 people aboard an Agni Air flight were killed after it had failed to land at Jomson (Nepal) and was returning to Pokhara.

In 2012, about 19 people died aboard a Sita Air Dornier 228 that came down shortly after take off from Kathmandu.

In 2014, a Nepal Airways Twin Otter was lost between Pokhara and Jumla, killing all 18.

In 2016, the same plane type, operated by Tara Air, crashed en route from Pokhara to Jomsom. Twenty-three lives were lost.

An Air Kasthamandap plane with 11 passengers on board crashed while flying between Nepalgunj and Jumla.

In 1992, a Pakistani jet plowed into a pine-covered hillside killing 167 passengers aboard. In the same year, a Thai Airbus had crashed into a snowy peak, killing all 113 people aboard. Both the accidents took place near Kathmandu.