This is my second article on the deadliest plane crash in Nepal, which was occurred on March 12, 2018, at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. As we know, at that time Nepal only had one international Airport which was the only way to international flights to enter Nepal. It is also the busiest airport of Nepal.
On March 12, 2018, tragedy struck as the Us Bangla BS 211 plane crashed along the runway at Tribhuvan Airport in Kathmandu, claiming the lives of 51 individuals on board. Despite clear weather conditions and no reported mechanical issues, the plane exhibited erratic behavior and narrowly avoided colliding with the control tower before ultimately crashing on the side of the runway.
The question remains what led to this devastating event? This article aims to cover the details surrounding the deadliest plane crash in the history of Tribhuvan Airport.
Table of Contents
“What led to the plane crash on that fateful day? Let’s delve into the underlying factors and uncover the truth behind this tragic incident”.
The aircraft in question is a Bombardier Q400, boasting a seating capacity of 76 passengers and registered under the name S2-AGU. Originally delivered to Scandinavian Airlines in 2001, it has since been flown by three other airlines before being acquired by US-Bangla Airlines in 2014. But we want to highlight that there were no problems in that plane during that time. You can see the full view of the aircraft below.
So, let’s begin the story. It has been said that there were four crew members and 67 passengers on board. Most of the people were Nepalese who had recently finished their medical studies in Bangladesh and were preparing to return home. The main pilot in command was Abid Sultan. He was 52 years old and had 22 years of experience in flight history. He had attended 5500+ hours in the air, and the main fact is that he had landed more than 100 times at Kathmandu Airport with the same aircraft.
The co-pilot was Miss Prithula Rashid. Her age was 25 years, and this was her first flight to Kathmandu. The time was 2:02 in the afternoon when the aircraft approached runway 02. However, Tribhuvan International Airport had two points of landing named Runway 02 (South) and 20 (North), which means a single aircraft can land from both sides.
During the landing process, the pilot did not initially spot any visible runway. However, the Tribhuvan Control Tower (TIA ATC) promptly contacted Us Bangla, specifically BANGLA STAR 211, to confirm if they had the runway in sight. Unfortunately, the pilot responded with a negative answer. As a result, it was determined that the plane was located outside of runway 0-2, in a left corner, and was moving parallel to the airport while spinning around.
As an air traffic controller, it is crucial to maintain a strong and clear connection with pilots. During a recent communication with the pilot of BANGLA STAR 211, the pilot was given clearance to land on runway 02. The pilot quickly responded with an affirmative, indicating that they would attempt to land on the designated runway. However, after a brief moment of confusion, the pilot made a U-turn and decided to land on runway 0-2 instead.
As the aircraft descended towards the runway, the altitude began to decrease rapidly, causing panic among the passengers. The pilot attempted to regain control of the aircraft, but it was too late. The plane was dangerously close to the air traffic control tower, and the pilot had to make a sharp turn to avoid a collision. The plane then approached the runway at a wrong angle, and only the right landing gear was down. The result was a catastrophic crash that caused a loud blast.
A total of 67 individuals were on board during the catastrophic crash, resulting in 22 passengers sustaining serious injuries. Tragically, the remaining 49 passengers were declared deceased. However, two additional individuals passed away while receiving medical treatment, bringing the total number of fatalities to 51. This devastating event is now recognized as the deadliest crash in Nepali history.
How planes land in Tribhuvan International Airport?
First and foremost, the question that arises is how a plane can veer off the runway. Additionally, how could an experienced pilot, who has successfully landed the same aircraft on the same runway over 100 times, make such a mistake? These are valid concerns that warrant further investigation. To know this actually truth we have to know that how a planes lands in Tribhuvan International Airport.
Just as different roads are designated for vehicles, planes also have their own paths and directions. Airplanes follow specific flight paths and routes to ensure safe and efficient travel. These routes are carefully planned and monitored by air traffic controllers to avoid collisions and ensure smooth operations.
Kathmandu, have two arrival points: SIMIRA and ROMEO. These are the arrival points for the planes that should go through them. After crossing these arrival points, the plane should arrive at the next arrival point named RATAN. Then, the plane arrives at GURAS arrival and goes for the runway.”
The next fact is that while being the busiest airport, not all planes can land on the runway at once. They have to wait for their turn to land on the runway. If the runway is not clear for landing, the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) commands planes to hold up in the sky. The holding position for the aircrafts is at the point GURAS. On the day of the crash, ATC commanded Us Bangla Air to hold for 10 minutes, and then the co-pilot gave a command to the Flight Management System.
After receiving the holding command from ATC, after some time, ATC gave permission to proceed to the runway. The mistake they made was forgetting to remove the command from the Flight Management System, which resembled a small mistake by the pilots and started the chain of mistakes. While forgetting to remove the command from the Flight Management System, the plane automatically took a sharp turn to the left. After that, the pilot took control upon himself and proceeded towards the runway.
While the plane was decreasing its height, the pilot asked the co-pilot, “Is the pre-landing check completed or not?” The pre-landing technical list indicates how a plane should solve all the technical precautions to land, and it was fully completed. However, the basic landing gear wasn’t down for the landing, and the plane was beeping the warning sound. After a sudden moment, they finally noticed that the landing gear wasn’t down, and they finally turned it on.
While proceeding to the runway, they didn’t find the runway in front of them again, so they made a turn around. At that exact time, Buddha Air was landing on runway 02. After that, ATC commanded Us Bangla not to land on runway 02, which could have caused a bigger disaster. After the successful landing of Buddha Air, ATC commanded US Bangla to land on any runway, whether 02 or 20.
The pilot said they would like to land on runway 20. While making a clear statement, the co-pilot should have been connected to the ATC and should have taken fully control of communication with the ATC, but the main pilot was the one who had the connection and control of the plane in his hand, which caused confusion between the pilot and ATC.
Image Source: Google
After that we all know that The Plane crashed, all the fire brigades and all the emergency services were there. But in a big crash we cannot save more people than we have expected and lives are impossible to save in this crash.
The technical reports of the plane is below:
Why an experienced Pilot made a Simple Mistake?
Due to his inability to fly the aircraft that day, the pilot was not in the proper condition. Throughout the flight, he was visibly distressed, shedding tears, and even shouting in front of his co-pilot. To make matters worse, he was smoking during the most critical part of the landing. This behavior raises questions about the captain’s professionalism and ability to perform his duties. Here is a detailed conversation:
US-Bangla Airlines 211 CVR Transcript (tailstrike.com)
Let’s know the history of Captain Abid Sultan. He was a fighter pilot in the Bangladeshi Air Force, working for more than 10 years in this field. After seeing the symptoms of clinical depression in 1993, the Air Force removed him from this post. After that, he joined commercial flight and became a pilot and instructor. There is no record of his medical history showing symptoms of clinical depression. He however, did not show any recurrence of symptoms. Even the US Bangla Airways didn’t know the medical history of Captain Abid Sultan.
“On the day of the crash, we witnessed the captain’s behavior as he became angry with the ground operator and spoke to them in an aggressive manner. During the flight, the pilot spoke calmly to the co-pilot but used abusive language when mentioning a lady named LAMIA. He spoke in Bengali and was angry with LAMIA for questioning his skills as a pilot and instructor.”
Due to a particular incident, he found himself ready to take the blame and resign from his position at US Bangla Airways. However, he was also concerned about his future and income, which kept him up all night. Despite his reservations, he still reported for duty the next day, but his anxiety led him to smoke in the cockpit. As he accepted responsibility for the blame made by a lady LAMIA, he also took the opportunity to teach his co-pilot how to fly the aircraft.
Unfortunately, their emotional conversation caused them to forget to turn on the landing gear, and they made several other small mistakes. They were lost and unsure of their location, but the pilot remained determined to land the plane safely, even if it meant risking an accident. But it lead to crash.
The question arises as to why the captain was allowed to fly in such an unstable condition during this critical situation. Following the publication of the crash reports, the captain’s mistakes were highlighted, which was not favorable for the airline.
While US-Bangla airlines marks the mistake of ATC as well saying “An instant and executive advice by ATC controller to the pilot to discontinue landing and climb up straight ahead at the very last moment, or words to that effect, just prior to its touchdown, could have contributed positively to evade the accident,” said Salahuddin in his observation.
Source The Kathmandu Post: After two years of crash Families of US-Bangla Airlines crash victims file $19million lawsuit. During this case many questions were also raised.
Families of US-Bangla Airlines crash victims file $19 million lawsuit (kathmandupost.com)
After that European Union implemented a new rule that “It’s mandatory for every airlines to do a psychological assessment before hiring pilots”. They said one more thing that “CAAN should strengthen the capacity of the ATC’s, by developing the appropriate training program so that they become more assertive when handling the traffic and issuing clearances to such traffic especially in this event of the abnormal or emergency situations”, said European Unions.
After gathering all the pertinent information, it was determined that the tragic incident was not caused by a plane malfunction or inclement weather conditions. Despite these factors being ruled out, the devastating crash resulted in numerous fatalities and severe injuries.
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