KATHMANDU, March 13: The investigation team formed to probe into the US-Bangla airplane crash, one of the deadliest aviation accidents in decades, began its work on Tuesday.
“The probe team has already go into action, and the investigation will move ahead in collaboration with international research agencies, as it involves an international flight,” said Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Suresh Acharya at a press conference held by the Tribhuvan International Airport Civil Aviation Office Tuesday.
Former Secretary Yagya Prasad Gautam leads a six-member probe team formed by the government following the crash on Monday.
Acharya also shared that the aircraft manufacturer company in Canada and the Bangladeshi Civil Aviation Authorities have been informed about the matter, with many international experts likely to be involved in the investigation. Though the time has not been fixed, but the probe team is likely to come up with its report in five months.
Meanwhile, a discussion was also held with the Tourism Minister and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh as well as with senior officials of the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh.
According to latest reports, the death toll in the plane crash has so far reached 49 while 22 of the injured are undergoing treatment in various hospitals in the capital. Of them, 33 are Nepalis, 32 Bangladeshi citizens, one Chinese and on Maldivian citizen, according to CAAN General Secretary Sanjib Gautam. There were four crew members on board.
According to Home Ministry, of the total 49 dead, 22 were Nepali, 26 were Bangladeshi and one was Chinese. Most of the Nepalis were students returning home on vacation and travel agency staff.
Recordings show apparent confusion between the pilot and air traffic control over the runway approach moments before the plane crash-landed at the TIA.
According to Aviation authorities they have recovered the flight data recorder from the charred wreckage of the plane, which burst into flames after ploughing into a football field near the airport.
Witnesses have described how the US-Bangla Airways plane carrying 71 people abruptly changed direction moments before it crashed.
On Monday the airline’s chief executive Imran Asif said there had been a “fumble from the control tower” as the plane approached the airport’s single runway.
But airport manager Raj Kumar Chhetri said it was too early to say what had caused the mountainous country’s deadliest crash since 1992.
“It is yet to be identified whether the pilot or air traffic control was wrong,” he said, adding the investigation would be carried out with Bangladesh.
Recordings of the conversation between air traffic control and the pilot appear to indicate confusion over which end of Kathmandu airport’s runway the plane was to approach.
Air traffic control can initially be heard clearing the plane to land from the southern approach.
“You are going towards runway 20,” the controller is heard saying seconds later, referring to the northern end of the tarmac.
A series of confused messages follow just before the crash in which the pilot says they will land at “runway 20” and then “runway 02” — the southern end.
Survivors said that the pilot gave no warning to passengers as the plane abruptly changed direction just before the crash.
“I had asked the air hostess, what is happening, is everything fine? She gave a thumbs up, but I could see she was panicking,” said Ashish Ranjit, 35, who escaped through a window on the plane’s right.
“It was so low and it took such sharp turns.”
The Flight UBG 211/BS aircraft hit the runway and skidded through an airport fence, leaving a trail of fuel and coming to a stop in a field where it burst into flames.
Twenty-two passengers — mostly sitting on the plane’s right side — managed to free themselves from burning wreckage by climbing through the plane’s windows or were pulled from the fuselage by passengers and rescuers.
The head of Nepal’s civil aviation authority have rejected suggestions that the airport’s creaking facilities played a role in the crash.
“The accident has not occured because of the airport’s infrastructure… Indeed it is operating in a situation of congestion, but we have procedures to safely land flights despite traffic,” Sanjiv Gautam told reporters.
Experts say that the Canadian-made Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 is a manoevrable plane that was developed to fly in Canada’s harsh arctic north and should be at home in Nepal’s mountainous terrain.
(Adopted from AFP/RSS)