Deadly Nepal plane crash caused by ‘emotionally disturbed’ pilot, report finds

Fifty-one passengers and crew died after Captain Abid Sultan made dangerous landing

Tim Wyatt
Monday 28 January 2019 12:13
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Kathmmandu plane crash: Devastating footage shows aftermath of deadly crash at Nepal international airport

A report into a plane crash which killed 51 people in Nepal last year has blamed the pilot’s stress and disorientation for the disaster.

Nepalese officials who investigated the accident concluded the Bangladeshi captain Abid Sultan came in to land at Kathmandu airport at a “very dangerous and unsafe altitude” after approaching at the wrong angle.

Under stress and suffering from a lack of sleep, Mr Sultan decided to land in “sheer desperation after sighting the runway, at very close proximity and very low altitude” the report said.

After failing to land once, Mr Sultan’s US-Bangla Airlines Flight BS211 crashed at his second attempt.

Some 51 people, mostly Bangaldeshis and Nepalese, were killed and a further 20 others injured. Both Mr Sultan and his co-pilot were among those who died.

A draft report leaked in August found the pilot had suffered an “emotional breakdown” over work-related stress.

Mr Sultan had chain-smoked and wept inside the cockpit during the flight, after he had been upset by a female colleague who had questioned his reputation.

The final report conluded he was emotionally disturbed in the lead up to the ill-fated flight.

He had been released from the Bangladesh Air Force in 1993 because he was suffering from depression and was only cleared to fly civilian aircraft in 2002 after a detailed medical evaluation.

The report also accused the air traffic controllers at Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport of failing to correctly monitor the plane’s flight path and issue clear instructions after Mr Sultan failed to land on his first approach.

As well as more training on assertiveness for flight controllers, the report also recommended Bangladesh’s civil aviation authority reassess the psychological wellbeing of any grounded pilots before renewing their licences.

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The crash was the worst aviation disaster in Nepal for a quarter of a century, but also the ninth fatal accident in just eight years.

Kathmandu’s airport, surrounded by steep mountains, is considered to be one of the most challenging runways to land on in the world.

Currently, all 17 of Nepal’s airlines are barred from flying in the EU because of a poor safety record.

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