A final report of the investigation into an air crash at Nepal’s Kathmandu airport in March last year said the captain of the aircraft was smoking in the cockpit during the flight and was engaged in an “unnecessary and lengthy conversation” during the critical stage, reported The Kathmandu Post on Sunday.
Fifty-one people had died when the US-Bangla Airlines plane from Dhaka crash-landed in Kathmandu on March 12, 2018. The pilot and co-pilot were among those killed. Twenty of the flight’s 71 passengers had survived the crash.
The Accident Investigation Commission submitted its report to Nepal Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari on Sunday. The report blamed the cause of the crash on the pilot’s disorientation and loss of situation awareness of the crew, reported Reuters. “Landing was completed in a sheer desperation after sighting the runway, at very close proximity and very low altitude,” it said.
The report said the 52-year-old pilot was also under stress and “emotionally disturbed” because he felt a female colleague, who was not on board, had questioned his reputation as a good instructor. A draft report by the commission, leaked in August, had mentioned that Captain Abid Sultan had been under stress because of that.
The report added that Sultan had been released from the Bangladesh Air Force in 1993 due to depression and was allowed to fly civilian planes from 2002 after a detailed medical evaluation.
The captain’s emotional state, coupled with the failure on the crew’s part to follow the standard operating procedure during the critical stage, had contributed to the loss of situational awareness, said the report. It mentioned that the crew did not realise the deviation of the aircraft from its intended path and, therefore, were unable to sight the runway.
“Finally, when the crew sighted the runway, they were very low and too close to [the runway] and not properly aligned,” the report said.
Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane, member-secretary of the investigation committee, said there were no significant changes in the final report as compared to the draft. The few changes related to the flying crew’s “personal issues”. “We have not diverted from the original fact,” he said.