All 16 passengers and 3 crew members including seven British and five Chinese tourists have been killed in a Dornier aircraft crash minutes after take off from Kathmandu airport on Friday morning.
The twin-engine Dornier, which was on its way to Lukla, gateway to the Everest region, was hit by a bird moments after take-off at 6:15 am. The pilot tried to bring the aircraft back to airport, but failed.
Eyewitnesses say the aircraft belonging to Sita Air, a private operator, had caught fire before hitting the ground near the banks of the Manohara River in Bhaktapur town, close to the airport.
This is the second air crash this year in Nepal. In May, 15 people including 13 Indian tourists were killed when a Dornier aircraft crashed into a hill near Jomsom airport in north-central Nepal.
Authorities at Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal said that the pilot Bijaya Tandukar had told air traffic controllers about a bird hit and his attempt to bring the aircraft back to the airport.
“Soon after the aircraft took off, the controller on the ground has asked the pilot about ‘unusual maneuvering’ and he had mentioned about being hit by a bird,” said Tribhuwan International Airport general manager Ratish Chandra Lal Suman.
It is believed Tandukar might have tried to land the aircraft in the river to minimize casualties. Residents of a slum near the crash site were lucky as the plane crashed near the river bank.
“Preliminary investigations suggest a bird hit immediately after take off. A dead bird has also been found on the runway. Exact details will be available later,” said a Sita Air employee without divulging his identity.