Nepal’s Tribhuvan International Airport is one of the world’s most deadly airports that saw numerous air crashes in the past thanks to its tiny runway and a risky flight route passing close to the ridge of the Himalaya.
The runway of Nepal’s lone international airport is not like other airports, it has a curve runway that can cause structural damage to the aircraft if the pilot fails to navigate with the highest level of precision, said Bangladesh Flying Academy and General Aviation Limited executive committee member Capt (retired) Shahabuddin Ahmed.
“We follow a 3-degree drive slope on a plain land runway, but on Tribhuvan’s runway we have to apply special techniques,” he said.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines has been extra careful in operating flight on this route to avoid any accidents, said the aviation expert.
He said an aircraft accident may be caused by three factors- bad weather condition, technical problem and any errors made by the pilot. What exactly caused the tragic crash of the US-Bangla flight will come to the light after decoding the Flight Data Recorder, he said.
Around 70 air crashes took place at Tribhuvan International Airport, killing at least 650 people, according to the BBC. The airport is located 6 km east of city centre and main tourists’ area Thamel, which is surrounded by mountains.
Nepal, the gateway to the Himalaya, is one of the most desirable places for tourist and a large number of tourists visit Nepal throughout the year.
The airport is about 4,390 feet above the sea level with a runway dimension of only 10,000 feet by 150 feet, according to the airport’s official website.
A pilot has to remain extra careful while landing and take offing on the airport, said the former captain.
A mountain, 8,700 feet above sea level, situated 9 miles from the airport --- the biggest barrier to a safe landing. Aircraft can not land directly on the airport, a pilot has to land his aircraft swiftly soon after the mountain. The airport does not even have any automatic landing system.
Aviation accidents are common in the Himalayan country.
On 10 May 1972, a Thai Airways Douglas DC-8 overran the runway on landing, and of 100 passengers and 10 crew on board, there was one fatality.
On 31 July 1992, an Airbus A310-304, operating as Thai Airways International Flight 311 crashed into a mountain while approaching Kathmandu, killing all 113 people on board.
On 28 September 1992, an Airbus A300 B4-203 operating as PIA Flight 268 crashed, killing all 167 on board.
On 17 January 1995, Royal Nepal Airlines De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 (9N-ABI), flight RA133 from Kathmandu to Rumjatar, had problems getting airborne at Tribhuvan International Airport. The aircraft struck the airfield perimeter fence and plunged into fields. Of three crew and 21 passengers on board, one crew member and one passenger were killed.
On 7 July 1999, a Boeing 727-200F of Lufthansa Cargo Airlines, five minutes after takeoff, crashed in the Champadevi hills at the 7550 feet level, when it should have been at an altitude of 9500 feet. All five crew members on board were killed.
On 5 September 1999, Necon Air Flight 128 from Pokhara to Kathmandu, a BAe 748-501 Super 2B (9N-AEG), crashed while approaching the airport.
The aircraft collided with a communication tower of Nepal Telecommunication Corporation and crashed in a wooded area 25 km west of Kathmandu. All 10 passengers and 5 crew were killed.
On 26 December 1999, an Indian Airlines Flight 814 was hijacked en route from Kathmandu to Delhi. The aircraft ended up in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Indian Airlines suspended all flights to and from Nepal for some time, fearing a lack of security at check-in.
On 24 December 2008, a Nepal Airlines De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 (9N ABM) ran off the runway during takeoff.
On 24 August 2010, an Agni Air Flight 101, a Dornier Do 228 aircraft (9N-AHE), crashed into hills outside Kathmandu in heavy rain. All on board (3 crew, 11 passengers) were killed.
On 15 December 2010, a Tara Air De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 en route to Tribhuvan International Airport from Lamidanda Airport, lost signal 162 km (101 mi) east of Kathmandu and crashed. All 19 passengers and three crew members on board were killed.
On 25 September 2011, Buddha Air Flight 103, a Beechcraft 1900D, struck terrain while on approach to Tribhuvan International Airport. There were 16 passengers and three crew members on board. Initial reports stated there was one survivor, who died en route to the hospital.
On 28 September 2012, a Sita Air Flight 601 and a Dornier Do 228, crashed soon after take-off, after apparently hitting a vulture. Sixteen passengers and three crew members were killed
On 4 March 2015, a Turkish Airlines Airbus A330-300 veered off the runway after attempting to land in dense fog.
The aircraft had been circling for 30 minutes and was making its second landing attempt, after a previous aborted attempt due to poor visibility. The aircraft skidded into soft grass causing the nose wheel to collapse and the airport to temporarily close to all international flights. Luckily, all 227 passengers and 11 crew members evacuated the aircraft safely.
On 27 May 2017, Summit Air Flight 409, a Let L-410 crashed short of the runway threshold while attempting a landing at Tenzing–Hillary Airport, Lukla en route from Tribhuvan International Airport. The captain and the first officer died as result of the accident, another crew member received injuries.
On 12 March 2018, US Bangla Airlines Flight 211, a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, carrying 67 passengers and 4 crew veered off the runway while landing then crashed on the east side of Tribhuvan International Airport catching fire. Till now, police reported 50 deaths.