Nepal: Bangladeshi airplane crashes on landing at Kathmandu, 51 dead

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

US-Bangla Airlines Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, from file.
Image: Raihan Ahmed.
Departure (green) and crash site (red).

On Monday, US-Bangla Airlines flight 211 crashed and caught fire upon landing at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. 49 of the 71 people aboard were killed, though by Tuesday the death toll had risen to 51 as two more passengers died in hospital.

The plane, a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop, was arriving at 2:18 pm local time (0833 UTC) from the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka. A crew of four and 67 passengers were aboard. It crashed upon landing, coming to rest in a football field beside the runway where it caught fire.

In a video published by the Nepali newspaper Kantipur, a witness, Sushil Chaudhary, described the aircraft "shaking" as it came in to land and almost hitting another plane. Then, he said, it "tilted and hit its wings and engine and crashed." Another witness spoke of seeing people escaping through windows as the plane burned.

Basanta Bohora, a surviving passenger, said: "All of a sudden the plane shook violently and there was a loud bang." Another, Sharin Ahmed, spoke of "a huge fire outside" and smoke "gushing" into the cabin, followed by an explosion. Keshav Pandey recalled being trapped by his hand and leg. He did not remember how he escaped from the fire, suspecting he fell out when the emergency door was opened from the outside.

The aircraft was 17 years old. The passengers were mostly from Nepal and Bangladesh, with one Chinese citizen and one from the Maldives. According to Nepal's Home Ministry, the dead include 28 Bangladeshis, 22 Nepalis and the Chinese passenger. The captain and co-pilot were among them.

Communication between the pilot and airport Air Traffic Control, published by the Nepali Times and also at, suggests confusion in the minutes leading up to the crash as to which end of the runway the plane should approach from. The pilot was first cleared to land at the northern end (called Runway 20) but later referred to the southern end (Runway 02), to which the air traffic controller then agreed. In the final moments of the recording, the controller shouts "I say again, turn!" The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal stated that publishing such transcripts is illegal.

Flying in Nepal can be problematic because the country is mountainous and because local weather can change rapidly, including a high risk of wind shear. According to a spokesman for the airline, Kamrul Islam, both pilots, Abid Sultan and Prithula Rashid, were experienced and had received required training for flying to Kathmandu. At the time of the crash, there was a variable crosswind and thunderstorms in the area.

There have been a number of air disasters at the Kathmandu airport. Monday's crash is the deadliest since 1992, when all 167 on board died in the crash of Pakistan International Airlines Flight 268.

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