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Cockpit miscommunication blamed for Nepal plane crash

According to Nepal’s civil aviation authority, the plane was permitted to land in Kathmandu airport from Runway 02 in the southern side but all of a sudden it changed its alignment and took a left turn.

world Updated: Mar 13, 2018 23:09 IST
Anil Giri
Anil Giri
Hindustan Times, Kathmandu
Nepal plane crash,US-Bangla,Flight BS 211
An airplane takes off at the international airport in Kathmandu on Tuesday near the wreckage of a US-Bangla Airlines plane that crashed on Monday.(AFP)

Miscommunication between air traffic controllers and the pilot of US-Bangla Flight BS 211 is being blamed for the fatal plane crash on Monday in Kathmandu that killed at least 51 people and injured 20.

According to Nepal’s civil aviation authority, the plane was permitted to land in Kathmandu airport from Runway 02 in the southern side but all of a sudden it changed its alignment and took a left turn, proceeding towards Runway 20 in the northern end of the airport.

The radio conversation stated that the aircraft was about to approach and other pilots sitting in the Nepali aircraft were heard warning the ATC that the US-Bangla pilot seemed disoriented.

But the CEO of US-Bangla disagreed with the logic given by Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal. Imran Asif claimed the ATC passed incorrect information to the pilot, leading to the crash, Bangladeshi media reported.

“The pilot, Captain Abid Sultan is alive and not at fault. He is a very skilled pilot and we have not even had any technical malfunctions over three years,” he said.

In the audio of the conversation, an ATC is heard saying: “I say again, do not proceed towards Runway 20.”

The pilot replied: “OK we are making an orbit towards right.” After a few seconds, the pilot again replies, “right…holding for runway 02. ”

The ATC reacted: “That’s good, but do not land. Traffic is not… there is another aircraft on approach.”

Then the ATC directed the pilot that runway is vacated and asked him to choose to land either runway 02 or 20.

“We would like to land on 20,” the pilot replied, and instructed the crew to prepare for landing.

Then the pilot was asked whether the runway is in sight or not due to low visibility. The pilot replied “negative”. Then the ATC urged him to turn right.

Then the pilot said he could see the runway, saying “affirmative.”

But the pilot took another direction where ATC was heard warning, “ I say again turn.. ”

Then the ATC yelled “fire”, indicating that aircraft was about to crash.

The aircraft took a right turn from the north-east which is very unusual.

Then it hit the edge of the runway opposite the ATC tower and skidded, breaking the inner fences of the airport boundary. It made an impact at grassland 200 metres away from the runway.

Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), Sanjib Gautam said that preliminary investigation showed the US-Bangla Airline passenger plane crashed because of abnormal landing.

He said the ATC had requested the pilots for landing in a proper way after the aircraft, which was to land from the south, changed its course. The aircraft also did not declare an emergency while landing, he said.

“The airport had kept other aircraft on hold after the abnormal landing by the US Bangla aircraft,” Gautam said. Nepal government has formed a panel to probe the reason behind the fatal accident.

First Published: Mar 13, 2018 21:00 IST