Disoriented Pilot Landing in ‘Sheer Desperation’ Caused Deadly 2018 Nepal Crash

Jan 28, 2019

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A deadly plane crash at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport (KTM) in March of 2018 was caused by a disoriented pilot who tried to land the passenger plane in “sheer desperation” and misaligned the aircraft with the runway, Nepalese aviation officials said in a report officially released Monday.

US-Bangla Airlines Flight BS211 from Dhaka (DAC) crashed upon landing at KTM on March 12, 2018, killing 51 people, including the pilots, and injuring 20 others.

The crash investigation report cites the likely cause of the crash as the pilot’s “disorientation.” He was reportedly emotionally disturbed and suffering from a lack of sleep when he took the helm of the ill-fated twin-prop Bombardier Dash 8, according to the Associated Press.

Parts of the investigation had surfaced in Nepalese media outlets last summer that suggested the pilot’s “severe mental stress” led him to make mistakes and was the cause of the crash. Those media reports said the pilot had an hour-long conversation with his co-pilot that, according to investigators, demonstrated he was lacking situational awareness. He also made several abusive statements about a female colleague who was also a co-pilot with the airline. The female colleague had called the captain’s reputation as a flight instructor into question, which upset him.

The report was officially released by authorities on Monday.

“Contributing to this, the aircraft was offset to the proper approach path that led to maneuvers in a very dangerous and unsafe altitude to align with the runway,” investigators wrote. “Landing was completed in a sheer desperation after sighting the runway, at very close proximity and very low altitude.”

Investigators also said that, according to the voice recorder and other passenger witnesses on board, the pilot was smoking in the cockpit during the flight and “engaged in unnecessary, unprofessional and lengthy conversation even in the critical phase,” NBC News reported.

The report further notes that, due to depression, the 52-year-old pilot was released from the Bangladesh Air Force in 1993 and couldn’t fly passenger planes until an in-depth mental evaluation in 2002. Investigators recommended that Bangladesh’s civil aviation authority impose mandatory psychological evaluations during airline pilot training and improve its procedures for reassessing the psychological status of grounded pilots before renewing their licenses.

Featured image by PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images.

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