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Nepal aircraft tragedy: disorientation in the cockpit

The conversation between pilot and ATC -AUDIO

Confusion between runway 20 and runway 02. Whose fault is that?

The last four minutes of conversations between the US-Bangla Airlines pilot and the Tia (Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, Nepal) Airport's Air Traffic Control indicate a possible confusion between runway 02 (south end) and runway 20 (north end).

These are the last valuable minutes perhaps to clarify the causes of the crash of the Bengalina company DHC-8-402Q Dash-8 crashed last Monday morning while it was landing at the TIA with 71 people on board, about 50 of whom died (see AVIONEWS). The aircraft took off from the "Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport" in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

According to local press as the aircraft was approaching several Nepalese pilots of other planes listening to the radio conversation had the perception that the captain of the Dash-8 was disoriented. The visibility was also poor.

At the beginning of the tape the control tower is heard to warn the pilot: "I repeat, do not proceed towards the runway 20". Then the ATC asks to remain waiting and not to land because there is another approaching aircraft. The pilot turns right; the ATC asks the captain if he wants to land on runway 02 or 20. The latter replies: "We would like to land on the 20", and it is clear that it will land at the end of the runway.

The pilot is then asked if he has the runway clearly visible; he answers "Negative". He is asked to turn to the right. But soon after, the pilot of the BS211 flight says "Affirmative", the runway is clearly visible. At that point the pilot says "Cleared to land runway 02" (even if he had asked the permission for 20). Despite this, the ATC authorizes him to land on runway 02.

Meanwhile, while talking to the "Army 53" aircraft, waiting ten kms away, the ATC says that the Bangladesh aircraft is "at the end on the 20th". The last recorded words of the US-Bangla pilot are: "[Incomprehensible] said, sir, is everything clear to land?" After a little 'silence, the controller Atc clearly alarmed shout "I repeat, turn ...!". There is silence, for a while ..., then a "Fire One" calls the tower, indicating that an accident has occurred and that the airport fire-fighting procedure has been activated. A Nepali pilot contacts to ask if the runway is closed and the ATC confirms "The runway is closed". The tragedy is accomplished ...

Therefore it seems that the investigation on the causes of the accident is towards a human error, and towards the attribution of responsibilities to the pilot. But it is not the same opinion by US-Bangla Airlines, whose CEO Imran Asif has instead accused the control of air traffic in Kathmandu, and told reporters: "There were some wrong directions from the tower. Our pilot was not in error. He is an instructor, with over 5000 hours of flight on this model of plane. There was a 'fumble' from the control tower".

Raj Kumar Chettri, Tia's chief executive, reported that the aircraft hit the perimeter fence of the airport before landing, and added: "The plane should have come from the right direction".

In the meantime the report has recorded a good news: in shock and with the clothes torn, but it seems in good physical condition, a woman has emerged among the wreckage. This is the 16th survivor of the 71 on board.

Below, the audio of the radio conversation:

frapec - 1210543

© AVIONEWS - World Aeronautical Press Agency Srl