Yet Another Tragedy

Yet, another tragedy has hit the country with the death of 49 people, including 22 Nepalis, in a fatal plane crash at the Tribhuvan International Airport Monday afternoon. Around 22 injured - some critical – are receiving treatment in various hospitals. The US Bangla plane crashed while making an abnormal landing at the TIA. It is the third deadliest accident involving an international plane in the country. The aircraft, with call sign BS-211, had flown to Kathmandu from Dhaka, carrying 71 passengers and crew members. As it came close to the airport, its pilot appeared to be disoriented as he ignored the instruction and warning of the Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower. TIA General Manager Raj Kumar Chhetri claimed the control tower room instructed the pilot to land from South Zero Two (02), but the flight disobeyed and moved towards North Two Zero (20). In order to land from runway 02, the plane should have come flying over the sky of Koteshwor, but it took a left turn over Jadibuti to attempt a landing from runway 20, which is the northern-end (Boudhha side). Chhetri informed that ground alignment during the landing was not in the right position. The radio conversation between the ATC tower and the pilot reveals this fact, but more authentic information can be gathered from the Black Box of the ill-fated plane. The way the plane made a forceful landing near the traffic tower was terrific. It looked like a daredevil act. It touched down on the runway near the parking area, hurtling onto the grassland that is 200 metres away from the runway. It caught fire after fuel spilled out. More casualties and damage were averted thanks to the prompt action of the security personnel and fire fighters that reached the disaster site within minutes to douse the fire and rescue the passengers. The unfortunate incident happened although the weather and wind condition at the airport was normal, according to the authorities.

The post-disaster response on the part of the TIA management and government was satisfactory. The situation was taken under control, and the injured passengers were rushed to hospitals promptly. The delay in the rescue operations could have cost more lives. Responding to the aviation disaster, the government has formed a six-member probe commission, which will investigate the case in earnest and submit the report at the earliest. The deadliest aviation tragedy is also an eye-opener for the country to ramp up construction of international and regional airports at strategic sites of the country. One of the chronic problems the TIA faces is the air traffic, which forces airlines to reschedule their flights. For example, if the flights, scheduled to fly in the morning, are cancelled owing to bad weather, it affects the time table of all the flights throughout the day, causing inconvenience to the passengers. Compared to other international airports, the TIA is obviously small and congested, and very close to downtown. It requires massive infrastructure development with modern facilities. There has been much talk but little action regarding the construction of the Nijgadh International Airport, but the government must now swing into action to build it as an alternative to the TIA.

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