Buddha Air’s plane crash has again raised the question of aviation safety in Nepal<br>KESHAB POUDEL

Sept. 30, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.: 05 No.-07 Sept . 30-2011 (Ashwin 13,2068)<br>

The reason behind Buddha Air plane crash is yet to be known for sure. The controlled flight into terrain (CFIT), according to preliminary estimates, seems to be the reason behind the accident as the plane hit a mountain in the process of landing.

Budha Air’s beach craft, which was returning after completing mountain flights, crashed in a hill south of Kathmandu Airport early on Sunday, killing all 19 on board, including three crew members. Some locals said the plane flew lower than its usual course before it crashed on a foggy morning.

The cause of the crash is believed to be the adverse weather condition. The aircraft, which lost its communication at 7:30 with the control room at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, crashed while returning from a mountain flight.

Meteorological Forecasting Division on Sunday said that bad weather could have been a major cause of the plane crash. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) also said that it had not registered the weather forecast for that fateful day.

“We always notify about the weather forecast, but today the forecast was not recorded at all,” said senior official of CAA Rajendra Shrestha. According to Shrestha, the visibility at the crash site was minimum because of heavy fog and rain. He said that the crash could have been averted if a proper reading was taken on time.

CFIT shows an accident in which an airworthy aircraft, under pilot control, is unintentionally flown into the ground, a mountain, water, or an obstacle. The term was coined by engineers at Boeing in the late 1970s. The pilots are generally unaware of the danger until it is too late.

“The nature of the accident showed that it is the result of pilots’ failure to maintain height due to bad weather,” said an aviation expert on condition of anonymity. “Since the plane conditions were reportedly good and it was returning after completing the hour-long flight, there may be no other reason than CFIT.”

Buddha Air crash was the first in the year 2011 but the third in the last 13 months. In August last year Agni Air’s flight crashed near Makawanpur while it was returning from Lukla to Kathmandu.

Rescue operation

Buddha Air accident site, Kotdanda, lies between Lamatar and Bisankhunarayan VDCs in Lalitpur, around 15 kilometers south of the Tribhuvan International Airport. Eighteen dead bodies were recovered from the site and one died in the hospital while undergoing treatment, according to SP Bhog Bahadur Thapa, who is overseeing rescue operations.

In all, there were 19 people—ten Indian, two American, a Japanese, three Nepalese and three not identified—on board the Buddha Air beach craft, Buddha Air confirmed. The ill-fated aircraft was approaching Kathmandu airport in a cloudy weather after completing its mountain flight.

The identities of the Indians killed are Pankaj Mehta, Chhya Mehta, S. Nagraj, I. Nagraj, L. Nagraj, HD Nagraj, D. Talosubrisum, DP Talosubrisum, P. Talosubrisum and Nagaraja Talosubrisum. All of them hailed from India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu.

The names of the other foreigners are Jegina Toshinoru of Japan, and Andre Wade and Natalie Neinan of US.

The Nepali casualties included Niranjan Karmacharya, Sarada Karmacharya and Jagajan Karmacharya, all of whom are believed to be from Jawalakhel, Lalitpur and from the same family. Thirty-six-year-old Niranjan was rescued alive but succumbed to his injuries while being rushed to B & B Hospital, Gwarko, for treatment. Captain JB Tamrakar, Captain Padma Adhikari and Air Hostess Asmita Shrestha were the crew members.

Chronology of accident

Last year, in a crash involving ill fated Agni Air’s Dornier aircraft, 14 people on board were killed, including six foreigners--four Americans, one Briton and one Japanese. Last year, all 22, including three crew members, were killed in a Tara Air Twin Otter that crashed in Lamidanda in December. Nepal Airlines DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 met an accident in April 19 at Kangle Danda, but there was no casualty.

A helicopter owned by Fishtail Air has crashed on Ama Dablam while rescuing two Japanese climbers above 16,000, according to multiple Asian news reports.

The Nepali skies saw 65 air mishaps in the last two decades, 65 percent of them involving fixed-wing aircraft. This was revealed by the Tourism Ministry’s High Level Taskforce on Compliance Status of Safety Recommendation.

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