Nepal's Tara Air plane carrying 22 people, including 4 Indians, goes missing minutes before landing

Nepal plane Tara Air 9 NEAT aircraft was carrying four Indians and three Japanese nationals. The remaining were Nepali citizens, ANI reported.
Photo for representational purpose only.
Photo for representational purpose only.
Updated on May 29, 2022 04:14 PM IST
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By | Written by Aniruddha Dhar, New Delhi

UPDATE: Plane missing for over five hours found in Nepal's Mustang district, says news agency ANI citing Kathmandu airport chief

A Tara Air's Twin Otter plane in Nepal with 22 people - including four Indian nationals, two Germans and 13 Nepali passengers besides a three-member Nepali crew- flying from Pokhara to Jomsom lost contact with the airport authorities on Sunday morning, news agency ANI reported. The aircraft bearing call-sign 9 NAET flew from Pokhara at 9:55 am and lost contact at 10:07 am in the Ghodepani area, according to the statement issued by the civil aviation authority of Nepal.

"The aircraft was seen over the sky of Jomsom in Mustang district and then had diverted to Mount Dhaulagiri after which it hadn't come into contact," chief district officer Netra Prasad Sharma told ANI.

The three-member crew of the aircraft was led by captain Prabhakar Prasad Ghimire. The aircraft was scheduled to land at Jomsom Airport in the Western mountainous region at 10:15 am, news agency PTI reported.

According to an air traffic controller at Jomsom Airport, they have an unconfirmed report about a loud noise in Ghasa of Jomsom.

"Locals from Titi have called and informed us that they have heard an unusual sound as if there was some bang. We are deploying a helicopter to the area for the search operation," Ram Kumar Dani, DSP of district police office, Mustang, said.

“The Nepal home ministry has deployed two private helicopters from Mustang and Pokhara for the search for the missing aircraft. The Nepal Army chopper is also being prepared to be deployed for the search operation,” ANI quoted spokesperson of the home ministry Phadindra Mani Pokharel as saying.

A Nepali Army Mi-17 helicopter has recently left for Lete, Mustang, which is the suspected crashed region of the missing Tara Air aircraft, said spokesperson of the Nepali Army Narayan Silwal.

The Indian embassy in Nepal said it was in touch with the families of the Indians aboard.

“Tara Air flight 9NAET that took off from Pokhara at 9.55 AM today with 22 people onboard, including 4 Indians, has gone missing. Search and rescue operation is on. The embassy is in touch with their family. Our emergency hotline number :+977-9851107021," it tweeted.

Mustang is one of the mountainous and fifth-largest districts of the Himalayan nation which hosts the pilgrimage of Muktinath Temple. The district, also known as "Land beyond the Himalayas", is located in the Kali Gandaki valley of the Himalayan region of Western Nepal.

Mustang (from the Tibetan Muntan meaning "fertile plain") the traditional region is largely dry and arid. The world's deepest gorge that goes down three miles vertical between Dhaulagiri and Annapurna mountains runs through this district.

Nepal's aviation industry has a poor safety record

The impoverished Himalayan nation has a poor air safety record due to insufficient training and maintenance. The European Union has banned all Nepali airlines from its airspace over safety concerns, reported news agency AFP.

The country also has some of the world's most remote and tricky runways, flanked by snow-capped peaks with approaches that pose a challenge for even accomplished pilots.

In March 2018, a US-Bangla Airlines plane crashed near Kathmandu's international airport, killing 51 people.

The following year three people died when a plane veered off the runway and hit two helicopters while taking off near Mount Everest.

The accident happened at Lukla airport which is the main gateway to the Everest region and is reputed to be one of the most difficult in the world for landings and take-offs.

Also in 2019 Nepal's tourism minister Rabindra Adhikari was among seven people killed when a helicopter crashed in the country's hilly east.

This month Nepal's second international airport opened at Bhairahawa, aiming to give Buddhist pilgrims from across Asia access to the Buddha's birthplace at nearby Lumbini.

The $76-million project will ease pressure on the overburdened Kathmandu international airport.

In February 2016, the Twin Otter aircraft - operated by Tara Air - crashed in mountainous western Nepal, killing all 23 people on board. The plane was travelling from Pokhara to Jomsom and lost contact with the control tower shortly after taking off. Most of those on board were Nepalis.

The plane was carrying three crew and 20 passengers, one of them Chinese and one Kuwaiti.

(With inputs from agencies)

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