A Nepal Airlines 19-seater Twin Otter flying from Pokhara to Jumla has been reportedly missing with 15 passengers and three crew since today afternoon.
The de Havilland DHC-6-300 Twin Otter registration 9N-ABB performing flight RA-183 departed from Pokhara at 12:43 for Jumla but the radio contact was lost after 30 minutes, while the pilot tried to divert the aircraft to Bhairahawa due to bad weather.
The pilot had last asked Bhairahawa airport tower at 13:13 that he is trying to divert as the weather condition is not good. The crew members did not reported any technical snag. Three crew members included pilot Shanker Shrestha, co-pilot Rabindra Banjara and air hostess Muna Maharjan.
The plane had arrived in Pokhara from Kathmandu in the course of regular flight to Jumla, according chief of Pokhara Airport Pratap Babu Tiwari.
Nepal Airlines has a routine flight from Pokhara to Jumla once a week on Sundays.
The missing plane was supposed to land in Jumla at 1:45 pm but is feared having crashed.
The missing aircraft had not been traced till late evening even as tracking of mobile phone of captain Shrestha showed that the plane could have met with an accident somewhere in Maruwakot area of Arghakhanchi district.
Minister without portfolio Dr Ram Sharan Mahat reached the Search and Rescue Office at the Tribhuvan International Airport Sunday evening to inquire about the ongoing search and rescue efforts.
“Maruwakot of Arghakhanchi is the likely accident site,” he wrote on Twitter after holding a meeting with the officials concerned. “Bad weather hampering search works.”
A team of 150 Nepal Army and police, along with the locals, have not yet reached the suspected crash site in a remote area of Khidim in Argakhanchi district.
The rescue personnel including the police and locals have been trying to reach the suspected crash site at the corner of three districts – Gulmi, Palpa and Argakhanchi – but in vein as the bad weather condition has been preventing them.
Two separate choppers of Fishtail Air and Nepal Army have been deployed to search the missing aircraft could not locate the plane due to bad weather conditions, according to Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal that has late in the evening called of the search operations due to poor visibility in the area.
The aircraft has one Danish citizen and an infant among the passengers.
Nepal Airlines – then Royal Nepal Airlines – had introduced two Twin Otters in early 1971. The same aircraft with a call sign 9N-ABB missing today had met with an accident at Jumla airport in July 1992 but has been in operation after repair.
The aircraft had
Three crew members
Captain Shanker Shrestha
Co-Pilot Rabindra Banjara
Air Hostess Muna Maharajan
IM Sejuwal – NC Politician
Gauri Kathayat – Journalist
Dr IB Pokharel
An infant (name not known)
including a Danish national IM Matheisen
EU blacklist and Nepali Sky
KATHMANDU: The incident again highlighted safety concerns about the aircraft. Recently, the European Union (EU) had blacklisted Nepali aircraft to fly to European sky citing poor safety record, though non of the Nepali airlines fly to Europe at present. However, the country has suffered a number of air crashes in recent years mostly attributed to inexperienced pilots, poor management and maintenance.
The hijack history
KATHMANDU: The aircraft missing today was the same aircraft that Nepali Congress (NC) activists hijacked in on on June 10, 1973 and took to Farbesgunj in India to fund the anti-Panchayat movement. One of the architect of the hijack is the incumbent prime minister Sushil Koirala, who had also been jailed in India for his involvement in the hijack. The aircraft was ferrying money from Nepal Rastra Bank’s Biratnagar office to Kathmandu, when Nepali Congress leaders including Durga Subedi and Umesh Giri hijacked it and landed in Farbesgunj.
Only one aircraft left for domestic flight
KATHMANDU: The ailing national flag carrier that once had a dozen aircraft for its domestic and international flights have left with only one aircraft for domestic flight from today. The feared crashed Twin Otter and another one were in operation as the two aircraft have been waiting for the engines. The Nepal Airlines had recalled for tender to supply engine for the two aircraft recently. It has been buying aircraft from China – which is suspected to be one of the key reasons behind the EU blacklisting – in grants and loan. However, the aircraft will arrive on April 16 only. Till then the airlines has to reduce its flights in the domestic market.