Missing Nepal Airlines aircraft found crashed
The wreckage of missing Nepal Airlines aircraft 9N-ABB has been found today morning at the Mashinelek hill – about 250 km west of Katmandu – Khachikot in Arghakhanchi district by local youth.
Immediately after the information, rescuers reached the site, where they found the wreckage of a plane that had slammed into a mountain and burst into flames, killing all the 18 passengers and crew, including a Danish tourist aboard.
The aircraft was missing since yesterday afternoon, half an hour after it took off from Pokhara for Jumla. The downpours and bad weather prevented search operation yesterday evening.
However, the crash site has been identified by tracking mobile of a passenger, who was Nepal Army Major Deepak Shrestha.
The rescue team led by Nepal Army from the Chandan Nath Batallion walked for 13 km to the crash site, where the wreckage of twin otter aircraft and bodies were scattered around.
Nepal Airlines has claimed that the aircraft was technically airworthy but the bad weather played foul causing the crash at the mountain. Experts suspect either heavy snow or the wind took the aircraft down to slam into the mountain.
A Simrik Air chopper lifted the bodies – using ropes and nets – from the crash site and took to the Army barrack, from where bigger Nepal Army choppers flew them to Tribhuwan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu.
Doctors at the Tribhuwan University Teaching Hospital will perform autopsies before releasing the remains to the relatives of the victims.
The cockpit voice recorder – also popularly known as black box – was also recovered from the crash site of the de Havilland Canada-manufactured 42-year old Twin Otter.
The government has formed a four-member investigation committee led by former director general of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) Tri Ratna Manandhar. The committee will report in 60 days.
Though, a total of 110 people died in the Nepal Airlines air crashes till date, around 97 people have died in six air crashes since 2010 only.
The ailing national flag carrier that used to own 12 Twin Otters once upon a time – has been now left with only one aircraft for the domestic operation after the fatal crash of Twin Otter 9N-ABB yesterday.
Nepal Airlines Corporation that had scheduled 22 flights a day with its two Twin Otter aircraft is now is reducing operations to half due to lack of aircraft.
However, it has hoped to revive its domestic operations with new Chinese aircraft that are scheduled to be delivered on April 16. The corporation that has been incurring Rs 170 million annual losses is hopeful of expanding its services to remote hilly districts after it receives all the six Chinese aircraft by this October. The first of the six aircraft on order – two MA60 and four Y12e – is scheduled to arrive by mid-April. The corporation has plans to operate MA60 on Biratnagar, Pokhara, Bhairahawa, Nepalgunj and Bhadrapur routes, whereas the smaller Y12e will be used on remote sectors. It has also claimed that Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation that produces the Harbin Y-12 is an alternative to the Twin Otter.
Due to lack of aircraft, the number of NAC passengers in 2011 dropped by 2.31 per cent to 45,990 shrinking the market share to 2.90 per cent. In 2012. NAC passenger occupancy rate dropped 19.82 percent to 36,874, whereas it could not improve in 2013 too.
During its heydays, NAC used to operate 18 aircraft – 12 Twin Otters, three Avro and three Pilatus Porters – to 42 destinations across the country. Between 1972 and 1979, the Canadian International Development Agency donated seven Twin Otters to the corporation. The Canadian-built Twin Otter, a 19-passenger aircraft with STOL capability and a high rate of climb, was the most suitable aircraft for serving Nepal’s remote and mountainous regions.
The Twin Otter made its first appearance in Nepal in 1970 as a replacement to the DC-3 Dakota, the workhorse of the then Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation.
However, the European Union in December banned all Nepali airlines from flying to Europe because of poor safety records.