#WhatTheFAQ: What makes Nepal such a tricky terrain for air travel?

All 72 people on board a Yeti Airlines aircraft that crashed in Nepal's tourist town of Pokhara are feared dead, in what was the deadliest aircraft crash in the country in 30 years
Pic: Edexlive
Pic: Edexlive

A chilling video live-streaming a fatal aeroplane crash has gone viral on social media. The video shows moments leading up to the crash of an aircraft operated by a Nepali airline, near the town of Pokhara on January 15. This was the deadliest plane crash in Nepal in the last 30 years, with no survivors expected of the 72 people aboard. In fact, the last 30 years have seen 600 people lose their lives in 27 aeroplane crashes in the Himalayan nation. What led to the crash on Sunday? Why have Nepali airlines been banned from the European Union's airspace? What of the people who lost their lives in yesterday's crash? We take a look

Where did the crash happen?
A passenger aircraft carrying 72 people crashed near the newly-constructed airport at the tourist town of Pokhara in western Nepal on January 15, Sunday, according to news reports. The town is located 200 kilometres west of Nepal's capital city of Kathmandu. The plane crashed in the forest near the airport, on the banks of the Seti River.

How many people are feared dead?
The aircraft that crashed was a twin-engine ATR 72, operated by Nepal's Yeti Airlines. It was carrying 68 passengers and four crew members. While the official death toll now stands at 66, officials have told the news agency AFP that hopes of locating survivors are "nil." 

As per news reports, 53 people on board were from Nepal, whereas 15 were foreign nationals, including five Indians. Amongst the Indian nationals on board, four of them were residents of Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh, and were on their way to Pokhara to try paragliding as part of their vacation. A video shot by one of these men has gone viral on social media. It was streamed live on Facebook by the passenger and depicts the moments leading up to the fatal crash. The streamer, Sonu Jaiswal, and his co-passengers appear unaware of the impending crash. The co-pilot of the ill-fated aircraft, Anju Khatiwada lost her husband, who was also a pilot to an aeroplane crash 16 years ago, according to a report by Reuters.

What led to the crash?
On Monday morning, the black box of the aircraft was uncovered. However, according to a report by BBC, officials have said that the pilot of the aircraft, Anup Joshi, did not report anything "untoward" before the crash. According to reports, the aircraft crashed while attempting to land at the Pokhara Airport, which had opened only 15 days ago. A panel has been set up by Nepal's Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal to investigate the matter. The panel is expected to submit a report in 45 days. However, according to a report by Outlook, flight tracking website FlightRadar24 claimed that the Yeti Airlines aircraft was 15 years old and equipped with an "old transponder with unreliable data". However, a spokesperson from Yeti Airlines told the media that the plane was "absolutely fine" and that the engine was in "good condition".

Does Nepal have a history of aeroplane accidents?
This is the deadliest aircraft crash in Nepal in 30 years. However, Nepal bears an ignominious reputation in terms of aircraft safety and regulations. In fact, Nepali airlines have been banned from the airspace of the European Union due to safety concerns. According to reports, experts point out the Himalayan nation's tricky terrain and a lack of investment in air travel as the reasons behind the perilous state of affairs. Experts have also said that unpredictable weather changes and unreliable weather predictions add to the concerns. 
Last year, in May 2022, an aeroplane from Tara Air crashed in Mustang in northern Nepal. All 22 people on board died. In 2018, an aeroplane carrying 71 people from Bangladesh crashed in Kathmandu, killing 55 people. According to reports, almost 600 people have died in 27 aircraft crashes and accidents in the last three decades in Nepal.

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