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Nepal, plane crashes. Why is flying in Nepal so dangerous

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Mountainous Nepal, where at least 68 people died in Sunday’s plane crash, has had a series of tragic air accidents behind it. Even the most experienced pilots are challenged by some of the world’s most difficult take-off and landing runways, with approaches surrounded by mountains. Among other things, this makes Nepal open the list of the most risky places on Earth to fly.

Sunday’s crash of the Yeti Airlines ATR plane, according to CNN, was the most tragic accident of this type in the country in 30 years and the third most tragic accident in the Himalayas (after two disasters of Thai Airways and Pakistan International in July and September 1992, which killed 113 and 167 respectively people). Now, on the approximately 18-minute flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara, at least 68 people have lost their lives and the fate of four others is unknown.

Yeti Airlines plane wreckage near Pokhara, NepalPAP/EPA/KRISHNA MANI BARAL

A black series of plane crashes in this country – home to 14 of the world’s highest mountains – has been going on since 2010. On August 24 that year, 14 people lost their lives when an Agni Air flight from Kathmandu to Lukla, a domestic flight, turned back due to bad weather at the destination airport.

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On December 15, 2010, while flying from Lamidanda Airport to Kathmandu, a DHC-6 Twin Otter crashed into a forest in the east of the country. 22 people, 19 passengers and three crew members were killed. Most of the passengers were pilgrims from Bhutan.

Plane crash with pilgrims on board (recording from December 16, 2010)Reuters

On September 25, 2011, a small Beechcraft plane belonging to a private carrier with 16 tourists on board crashed during a sightseeing flight around Mount Everest near the village of Bisankunarayan near Kathmandu. All 19 people on board died (three were crew members).

On May 14, 2012, 15 people lost their lives when an Agni Air Dornier Do 228-200 flight carrying pilgrims from Pokhara crashed at Jomsom airport in northern Nepal. The plane landed twice. The second time he hit the top of the mountain. Six people survived the disaster.

On September 28, 2012, Sita Air’s Dornier Do 228, flying from Kathmandu to Lukla, crashed shortly after take-off and burst into flames. 19 people died (16 passengers and three crew members), no one survived.

The plane crashed in Kathmandu shortly after take-off (September 28, 2012)

The plane crashed in Kathmandu shortly after take-off (September 28, 2012)Reuters

On February 16, 2014, 18 people died in the crash of the state-owned Nepal Airlines Twin Otter plane. The plane, en route from Kathmandu to Jumla airport, with a stopover in Pokhara, crashed on the second leg in the jungle in the Arghakhanchi district. The weather conditions in the area were terrible, significantly reducing visibility.

The mountainous terrain of the Arghakhanchi District (video from February 17, 2014)

The mountainous terrain of the Arghakhanchi District (video from February 17, 2014)Reuters

On February 24, 2016, Tara Air’s Twin Otter flight from Pokhara to Jomsom port crashed on a hill in Myagdi district after only ten minutes of flight. All 23 people on board died. Among the factors that contributed to the disaster was bad weather, but above all, the wrong decisions of the crew.

On March 12, 2018, a flight from Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, crashed while attempting to land at Kathmandu airport. There were 67 passengers and four crew members on board the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400. After touchdown, the machine crashed into a nearby football field, disintegrated and burst into flames. 51 people died.

The plane was flying from Dhaka, crashed at the destination airport in Kathmandu (video taken on March 12, 2018)

The plane was flying from Dhaka, crashed at the destination airport in Kathmandu (video taken on March 12, 2018)Reuters

On April 14, 2019, a small plane, flying from Lukla to Kathmandu, ran off the runway during takeoff in the Mount Everest area and crashed into a parked Manang Air helicopter. Three people (the pilot of the plane and two police officers who stood by the helicopter) were killed and four were injured.

On May 29, 2022, Tata Ar’s Twin Otter flight to Jomsom crashed after taking off from Pokhara, killing all 22 people on board. According to the schedule, the flight was supposed to last 15 minutes. Air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane shortly after takeoff. The flights from Pokhara to Jomsom are often used by foreign tourists going to the Himalayas, as well as pilgrims from India and Nepal going to the Muktinath temple.

Deceptive topography, harsh weather, flawed regulations

Mountainous terrain, poor infrastructure, difficult weather, the use of outdated aircraft and questionable safety regulations are the main reasons for plane crashes in Nepal. The situation of pilots is aggravated by the need to use small planes that allow them to get to the most remote and mountainous parts of the country. The Civil Aviation Authority in its 2019 report noted that airplanes with less than 19 seats on board are more likely to suffer accidents and disasters.

In the north-eastern part of the country there is also Lukla airport, described as the most dangerous in the world. It is also the gateway to Everest. Its short runway is located on a slope between the mountains, and the final section is on the edge of a precipice.

Lukla Airport in a shot from October 2017

In 2015, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the specialized UN body that deals with the development and implementation of international regulations governing the safety of air navigation, set security priorities for Nepal. Two years later, ICAO and Nepal announced a partnership to improve aviation safety.

CNN, The Independent, tvn24.pl, Reuters

Main photo source: PAP/EPA/KRISHNA MANI BARAL



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