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14 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM

Blame game continues over crash


Speculation is swirling about the possible reasons behind the deadly crash of the US-Bangla flight BS-211. The airport authorities and the airline are blaming each other even before a thorough investigation has been conducted to pinpoint what really happened. A YouTube video showing the conversation between the pilot and the Airport Tower Control (ATC) of Tribhuvan International Airport at Kathmandu has added fuel to the fire, spawning several theories. The Nepalese media as well as several international news outlets have indicated a faulty manoeuvre by the aircraft pilot, Abid Sultan, who died yesterday morning after being rescued from the crash site with severe injuries. Reuters reported that even though the ATC at Tribhubon initially cleared the flight to land on runway 02, the flight began deviating from its course. The plane was then seen circling twice in a northeast direction.

Traffic controllers asked the pilot if things were OK, and he replied: “Yes.” The tower then told the pilot that his alignment was not correct, but received no reply, reported Reuters.

Meanwhile, the CEO of the airlines, Imran Asif, blamed the ATC of the airport, saying it severely confused and eventually misguided the pilot in landing the aircraft. Asif cited a transcript of their radio conversation with ground control in Kathmandu that was issued by a German air safety website, JACDEC, and said: “We suspect wrong signals from Kathmandu air traffic control room might have led to the crash.”

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

Talking to The Independent, Ashish Roy Chowdhury, advisor of Regent Airways of Bangladesh, said, “Making any assumption basing on the conversation that surfaced in the YouTube would be premature to find out the reason behind such a grave incident as an aircraft crash.”

He observed that until and unless the data retrieved from the flight data recorder (FDR) is analysed and a thorough investigation conducted, no conclusive reason about the flight crash of BS-211 can be made.

The FDR of BS-211 has been recovered and a six-member inquiry team of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal launched an investigation yesterday into the US-Bangla plane crash that left 51 people dead.

The investigation team, headed by Yagya Prasad Gautam, former director-general at the CAAN, has started its investigation, confirmed Raj Kumar Chhetri, general manager of the Tribhuvan International Airport.

Meanwhile, six officers stationed at the Air Traffic Control Tower, who witnessed the US-Bangla air crash in Kathmandu, have been shifted to another department to “minimise the shock of the accident”, reports Nepal’s My República.

The Independent talked with a number of aviation experts and incumbent pilots of different airlines. All of them declined to go on record as the incident is still under investigation.

One senior pilot, who preferred to remain unnamed, told The Independent that it seemed to him that the pilot was fatigued. The pilot said he had heard it was Sultan’s third flight on that day. He had already made two Dhaka-Chittagong-Dhaka flights before boarding his third flight.

The senior pilot also questioned the role of the co-pilot since, as per standard aviation norms, the pilot manoeuvres the plane during landing and/or take-off, and the co-pilot communicates with the control tower. But the audio revealed that both the landing and communication were carried out by the pilot Sultan, said the senior pilot.

Another senior pilot told The Independent that after listening to the communication on YouTube, he realised that the ATC first cleared the runway from the north end, namely 02, and when the flight started descending, the ATC then gave the hold order. The senior pilot said as per his understanding, the flight had already descended to a level from where proper manoeuvring in the wind pressure of Kathmandu was quite difficult. “The ATC can’t evade the blame,” added the pilot. Talking to The Independent, Kamrul Islam, general manager of US-Bangla airlines, did admit that it was the ill-fated pilot’s third flight on that day. “But I don’t know how that is a problem because our pilot even has eleven-hour working days.”

Islam noted that no aircraft can fly without the instructions of the control tower. “At this point, I can only say that a lot of lives were lost. We should wait for a proper investigation, based on the data of the black box.”


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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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