Deadly crash in Nepal: pilot wept, lied and smoked inflight
A months-long investigation by the Nepali government into the deadly plane crash at an international airport in Kathmandu, has pointed to the fault of a pilot. A leaked draft of the investigation report revealed that the pilot exhibited erratic behavior: from weeping to chain-smoking in the cockpit during the flight while also constantly arguing with his female co-pilot. It also suggested that the pilot lied to air traffic controllers about carrying out the proper procedures for landing, he seemed disoriented and had lost sight of the runway before the plane crashed at the airport.
On March 12, 2018, Flight BS211 of the US-Bangla Airlines took off from the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka, and was headed for the Nepal capital Kathmandu. On landing, the aircraft, a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, clipped the fence of the Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport (KTM) and crashed, bursting into flames. Out of the 71 people on board, 51 were killed. Both the pilot and the first officer also died in the crash. The accident was declared as the Himalayan nation’s worst aviation disaster in 26 years.
Different reviews of the yet-to-be-published final report tell somewhat varying circumstances of what took place in the cockpit before the plane’s deadly crash. According to Reuters, a draft of the investigation report compiled by the Nepali government-appointed panel, states that the captain, a former Bangladesh air force pilot, Abid Sultan, had been “extremely upset and hurt” by remarks made by “a female colleague” who questioned his reputation as an instructor for the airline.
The report describes the captain as being “very much under stress”, having several “emotional breakdowns” during the flight as well as “continuously smoking in the cockpit”, despite the first officer’s efforts to console him. “The captain was ‘crying and sneezing’ on several occasions during the flight,” the draft reportedly states, citing the recorded conversation between the cockpit and the air traffic controllers.
The investigation report has also been accessed by the Nepali daily Kathmandu Post. According to India Today, which cites the Kathmandu Post, the report clearly suggests that the captain “was under immense mental stress and anxiety” while flying and that his erratic behavior “should have raised immediate red flags” inflight.
"He seemed to be fatigued and tired due to lack of sleep," the Kathmandu Post quoted the investigators as saying from their analysis of the cockpit voice recorder. "He was crying on several occasions."
The voice recorder also captured the conversation between the captain and his co-pilot. At one point, he was heard saying, "I don't f---ing care about the safe flight, you f--- your duty." Apparently, as the Kathmandu Post revealed, the pilot was shouting at his female colleague with whom he had a dispute throughout the flight.
According to India Today, not only was the captain chain-smoking during the flight, investigators have also uncovered that he lit a cigarette just three minutes before starting the plane's descent. The pilot reportedly also admitted he made a mistake to his co-pilot when the plane was starting to land.
He then reportedly lied to the air traffic controllers about having locked down the plane's landing gears six minutes before making the final descent. Investigators reportedly found that when the co-pilot conducted a final landing check, she found that the gear was not down.
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