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13 March, 2018 12:33:36 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 13 March, 2018 12:28:23 PM

50 killed as US-Bangla plane crashes

Aircraft skids off runaway in Nepal airport and bursts into flames
Faisal Mahmud
50 killed as US-Bangla plane crashes
Nepalese law enforcers and rescue workers gather around the debris of the US-Bangla airplane (inset) that crashed and burst into flames near the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu yesterday. AFP Photo

At least 50 people, including 25 Bangladeshis, were killed after an aircraft of US-Bangla Airlines crashed and burst into flames yesterday near Kathmandu airport in the biggest ever aviation disaster involving a Bangladeshi passenger aircraft. The deceased Bangladeshi nationals are Foysal Ahmed, Eakub Ali, Alifuzzaman, Bilkis Ara, Begum Hurun Nahar Bilquis Banu, Akhtara Begum, Nazia Afrin Chowdhury, Md Rokibul Hasan, Sanzida Haque, Md Hasan Imam, Mohammad Nazrul Islam, Akhi Moni, Meenhaz Bin Nasir, FH Priok, Tamarra Prionmoyee, Md Motiur Rahman, SM Mahmudur Rahman, Tahira Tanvin Shashi Reza, Pias Roy, Umme Salma, Aniruddha Zaman, Md Nuruz Zaman, Md Raiquz Zaman, co-pilot Prithula Rashid and crewmember Khwaja Hussain, according to a post shared by State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam in his Facebook account.

The Bangladeshi injured are Shahreen Ahmed, Almun Nahar Annie, Md Shahin Bepari, Md Rezwanul Haque, Mehedi Hasan, Emrana Kabir Hashi, Md Kabir Hossain, Sheikh Rashed Rubayet, Saiyda Kamrunnahar Shwarna, pilot Abib Sultan and crewmember KHM Shafey, he said.

Of the injured passengers, Rezwanul was taken to OM Hospital while the rest were taken to Kathmandu Medical College.

The pilot was admitted to Norvic International Hospital while Shafey was yet to be taken to the hospital, the state minister wrote.

Exact death toll was yet to be confirmed while filing of this report as the injured were taking treatments in Nepali hospitals.  

A YouTube video revealing the conversation between the pilot of the US-Bangla flight BS-211 and the control tower of Katmundu’s Tribhubon International Airport (TIA) hinted at a miscommunication between them.

The Independent, however, could not verify the authenticity of the audio tape.

Raj Kumar Chhetri, general manager at TIA, told the news agencies that the aircraft skidded off the runaway after landing in the "wrong direction against the order of the control room".

"The control room had given permission to land from the southern end. But it landed from the northern side after making few rounds in the sky," he said.

“The plane flew past just above the air-traffic     

control tower during its descent for landing. It touched down the ground just next to a parked plane and ploughed through a fence on the east side of the airport, and plunged into the lower ground,” said Chhetri.

“When control tower asked the pilot if there was any problem, the pilot said everything is okay. However, instead of landing from the north side, the plane went towards north-east and made two rounds,” the Kathmandu Post reported Chhetri as saying.

“Again the tower asked the pilot why he didn’t land the plane and enquired if he was okay. In reply, the pilot said all is fine and he was preparing to land. The alignment of the plane was not properly adjusted for landing. When the air-traffic controller informed about the alignment, there was no response. And then the plane descended from close to airport tower towards the right side (near army hangar),” he added.

Meanwhile, Imran Asif, CEO of US-Bangla Airlines, at a press briefing said they are also suspecting a miscommunication between the pilot and the control tower at the airport.

He said that the pilot of the aircraft, Abid Sultan, is injured and is getting treatment at a Katmundu hospital.

Earlier, Kamrul Hasan, General Manager of the US-Bangla Airlines, told the media that there were 71 people on board—67 passengers, one pilot, one co-pilot and two cabin crew. Of them, 33 are Nepali passengers, 32 from Bangladesh, one each from China and the Maldives. All the four crews are Bangladeshis.  

“As of this point, we can’t confirm how many Bangladeshis have survived the crash,” said Hasan in the briefing.

The airline, however, opened a hotline and provided official update in every hour.

Meanwhile, agencies reporting from the sport said that the aircraft landed east of the airport’s lone runway and skidded into a nearby football field.

Rescuers had to cut apart the mangled and burned wreckage of the upturned aircraft to pull people out, some of whom were buried under the scattered debris.

Eyewitnesses said the plane crashed as it made a second approach towards the airport, bursting into flames after coming to a halt in a football pitch next to the runway.

“It should have come straight but it went in the other direction,” said airport cleaner Sushil Chaudhary, who saw the crash. “I was worried it would hit another aircraft, but the pilot pulled the plane up. But then it crashed towards the field.”

Earlier, on 5 August 1984, Biman Bangladesh Airlines flight Fokker F27-600 crashed into a marshland  near  Zia International Airport (now Shahjalal International Airport) in Dhaka while landing amid inclement weather.  

During the 1984 crash, all the 45 passengers and 4 crew members on board the flight were killed.  The US-Bangla plane that crashed on Monday was a Canadian-made Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop, Mahbubur Rahman of Bangladesh’s civil aviation ministry told AFP.

“There might be technical problems on the aircraft. But it has to be probed before making a final statement,” Rahman told AFP. The aircraft that went down was 17 years old, data from tracking website showed.

It descended to an airport altitude of 4,400 feet (1,341 m) and then climbed to 6,600 feet (2,012 m) before crashing about two minutes later, the website said.

Kathmandu airport briefly closed after the accident, forcing inbound flights to divert, but it has since reopened. It is Nepal’s only international airport and experts say the surrounding Himalayan landscape makes it testing for pilots coming into land.

The airport has a single 10,007 feet (3,050 m) concrete runway orientated 02/20. There is no instrument landing system—which enables pilots to conduct a predetermined maneuvers landing if they are unable to establish visual contact with the runway.

“The landing at Kathmandu because of the terrain is a little challenging,” said Gabriele Ascenzo, a Canadian pilot who runs aviation safety courses in Nepal. Depending on the direction of approach, pilots have to fly over high terrain before making a steep descent towards the airport, Ascenzo added.

The accident is the deadliest in Nepal since September 1992, when all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane were killed when it crashed. Just two months earlier, a Thai Airways aircraft had crashed near the same airport, killing 113 people.

Nepal’s poor air safety record is largely blamed on inadequate maintenance, inexperienced pilots and substandard management, and its planes are banned from flying in European airspace, reported AP.

Accidents are common, hitting the impoverished country’s vital tourism industry. In early 2016, a Twin Otter turboprop aircraft slammed into a mountainside in Nepal killing all 23 people on board. Two days later, two pilots were killed when a small passenger plane crash-landed in the country’s hilly Midwest, said the AP report.

US-Bangla Airlines is a private carrier that launched in July 2014 with the motto “Fly Fast Fly Safe”, according to its website. The Dhaka-based airline made its first international flight in May 2016 to Kathmandu, and has since expanded with routes to South Asia, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

In 2015 one of its planes overshot the runway on landing at Saidpur in northwest Bangladesh. There were no reports of injuries.





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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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