February 9, 2023

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Why did the Nepal plane crash?

Crews recovered the plane’s data recorder and cockpit voice recorder from the crash site on Monday.

Eti Airlines Flight 691 crashed on Sunday after a 27-minute flight from Kathmandu, shortly before landing in the Nepalese resort city of Pokhara, the gateway to the popular Himalayan trekking region.

At least 69 of the 72 people on board have been confirmed dead.

Pilots say Nepal can be a difficult place to fly, but the weather at the time of the crash was good, with little wind, clear skies and temperatures above freezing. What caused the ATR 72 twin prop plane to crash?

Did the plane stop?

Dramatic cellphone video taken from the ground shows the final seconds before the plane crashed about 1.6 kilometers (one mile) from the newly opened Pokhara International Airport. Amit Singh, an experienced pilot and founder of Safety Matters, an Indian foundation, explained that the plane’s nose rises significantly before the plane’s left wing suddenly drops down, causing the plane to disappear from the video, indicating a possible stall. security matters).

“If you look at the plane’s trajectory, the nose of the plane goes up, and nose up is associated with deceleration,” he told The Associated Press. “When they have a draft, usually a wing goes down and the wings basically create lift. So as the airflow decreases, the lift created is not enough to keep the plane flying, the wings drop and the plane falls.

Professor Ron Bartsch, an aviation safety expert and founder of Australia’s Avlau Aviation Consulting, told Sydney’s Channel 9 he believed the plane had stalled. He added that its proximity to the ground may have led pilots to believe its speed was higher than it actually was.

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“I point out that the plane stopped,” he said after reviewing video recorded just before the crash. “Probably pilot error.”

Eti Airlines spokesperson Bemba Sherpa said the cause of the crash was under investigation.

Questions about the flight

The ATR-72 was introduced in the late 1980s, produced by a French and Italian joint venture, and although it has been involved in several fatal crashes over the years—some due to icing problems—generally has a “very good track record,” Bartsch said.

The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder were recovered by the flight crew on Monday, but investigators will not know what happened until they have carefully analyzed them.

“Human factors will be a component, and researchers will look at whether or not there was adequate training,” Bartsch added. “But airplanes don’t usually fall out of the sky, especially modern airplanes.”

Singh said some sort of technical glitch in the plane’s instruments could have given the pilots wrong data, but even a stall problem is possible to recover from.

“Pilots should be trained to handle technical malfunctions,” he added.

Singh stressed that Nepal’s aviation industry has a poor record in safety and training despite its “challenging airports and conditions”. Although it is improving, its planes are banned from flying in European airspace, he insisted.

A pilot who regularly flies an ATR-72-500 from India to Nepal said the terrain of the region, with its mountain peaks and narrow valleys, increases the risk of accidents and sometimes requires pilots to fly by their own vision instead of instruments.

A pilot with a private Indian airline, who asked not to be named due to company policy, called the ATR-72-500 an “unforgiving aircraft” even though the pilot was not highly trained and unfamiliar with the terrain and wind. Speed ​​of the region.

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ATR said on Twitter on Sunday that its experts are “fully committed to supporting both the investigation and customers” and that its “first thoughts are with all those affected.”

The company did not immediately respond to requests for further comment.

Concerns about the new airport

Nepal, home to 8 of the 14 highest mountains in the world, has a history of plane crashes. According to data from the Safety Matters Foundation, there have been 42 fatal plane crashes in Nepal since 1946.

According to the Nepal Civil Aviation Authority’s 2019 safety report, the country’s “hostile terrain” and “diverse weather patterns” were the biggest challenges, resulting in a “series of accidents” involving small aircraft. According to the report, these accidents occurred at airports with narrow runways for takeoff and landing, and most were due to pilot error.

A popular tourist destination and the gateway to the Annapurna range, Pokhara Airport is situated at an altitude of about 820 meters (2,700 feet).

Before the airport opened two weeks ago, some feared that the area’s significant number of birds — due to the habitat provided by the two rivers and the airport’s nearby landscape — could make it even more dangerous.

During the airport’s official opening, the city’s mayor said work to mitigate the effect of the landfill had been completed, according to local news reports, but it was unclear what specific measures had been taken.

If the plane had been struck by a bird during landing, it could have led the pilots to break their approach and turn back, causing the engine to fail, Singh said.

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“A strong motivational system can cause a stop,” he explained. “The crew mishandled the stall maneuvers…so the question again is how the pilot overcame the problem.”

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