OPINION: Guilty, who?
DHAKA (The Daily Star/ANN) - Who was really guilty? The US-Bangla Pilot, or the ATC of Tribhuvan International Airport?
A YouTube audio clip of a reported conversation between US-Bangla flight BS211 and the air traffic control (ATC) of Tribhuvan International Airport prior to the crash reveals startling confusion over what was going on.
There appeared to be confusion over which end the plane was supposed to land, whether it had permission to land, and traffic on runway.
The Daily Star could not verify the authenticity of the audio tape that had apparently been trimmed to shorten the pauses between the ATC transmitting messages.
At the beginning of the tape, the ATC is heard repeatedly asking BS211 not to approach runway 20 and asks it to go on holding position, which is usually a circular in the air.
Pilot Abid Sultan informs ATC that he is taking a right turn for the holding position for runway 02, which is the same runway but approached from the other end.
The ATC then said, “Okay that's good but do not land. Traffic is on short final [approaching to land] runway 02.”
Abid confirms and said, “Let us know when we are clear to land.”
The ATC is then heard asking other traffic about their positions and instructing them even in what appears to be Nepalese.
A controller then tells BS211, “Runway clear to land, runway is vacated, either runway 02 or 20.”
Abid said, “Sir we would like to land on 20.”
The ATC then clears the pilot to land on runway 20. The pilot acknowledges and repeats the clear to land instruction.
BS211 is then asked by the ATC if it had the runway in sight and the pilot replied in the negative.
ATC then started to give instruction for a right turn but midway into to the sentence asked the pilot, “Confirm you have runway not in sight yet.”
Pilot Abid then said, “Affirmative, we have runway in sight requesting clear to land.”
The ATC gives landing clearance and the pilot confirmed, “Clear to land runway 02 BS211.”
Tribhuvan ATC then acknowledges, “Clear to land runway 02 BS211.”
However, the ATC is then heard asking another aircraft to hold as BS211 was on the short final to runway 20.
A person with no call sign is then heard asking if he was cleared to land.
An air traffic controller is then heard saying, “BS211 I say again turn …” The sentence was not completed and the rest of the tape is about the ATC trying to deal with the crash, including telling other planes that the airport is closed.
Meanwhile, Tribhuvan International Airport in an official press release claimed that the pilot did not follow the controller's instructions. It said landing from South to North was common but the pilot picked the other end.
It claimed that the pilot was alerted by the controller that the plane's alignment was not correct but there was no response. It said BS211 nearly collided with another parked aircraft.
Quoting witnesses, it said the plane looked unusual in its approach and was shaky.
While the airport claimed that pilot approached the runway from the wrong end, Imran Asif, the US-Bangla CEO, in a statement said negligence on part of the Tribhuvan ATC in giving specific instructions caused the crash.
AP quotes eyewitness Amanda Summers, an American who works in Nepal, to say that she watched the crash happen from the terrace of her home office.
“It was flying so low I thought it was going to run into the mountains,'' she said. She said it was unclear if it had reached the runway when it landed. ``All of a sudden there was a blast and then another blast,'' she said, as reported by news agency AP
The private carrier US-Bangla Airlines spread its wings beyond the Bangladeshi airspace on May 15 in 2016 with its maiden international flight to Kathmandu. It operates Dhaka-Kathmandu flights four times a week.
The airport in Kathmandu is no stranger to mishaps, crashes, and casualties.
On September 28, 2012, a plane heading for the Everest region crashed minutes after take-off from the airport, killing all 19 people on board.
The airport management at the time said that the plane had struck a bird and suffered "technical glitches".
On September 25, 2011, a small aircraft carrying tourists to view Mount Everest crashed while attempting to land in dense fog, killing all 19 people on board.
On September 28, 1992, all 167 people onboard a Pakistan International Airlines flight were killed when the plane, approaching the airport, crashed into a mountain.
On July 31, of the same year, a Thai Airways International flight crashed into a mountain while approaching the airport, killing 113 people onboard.
[The link of the YouTube clip: