Flight BHA-103 of Buddha Air, crashed in the Kathmandu valley on Sunday morning, killing all 19 persons, including 10 Indians, onboard.
The Beechcraft plane had completed a flight around Mount Everest when it lost contact with the Tribhuvan International Airport tower at 7.31 a.m. It crashed four minutes later at Kotdanda in Lalitpur district, around 15 km south of the airport.
The others killed were six Nepalis, including three crew members; two Americans and a Japanese.
According to a statement issued by the Indian Embassy here, the Indians were: Pankaj Mehta and his wife Chhaya Mehta, M. Maruthachalam, M. Manimaran, A.K. Krisunan, V.M. Kanakasabesan, T. Dhanasekaran, Kattoor Mahalingam, Meenakshi Sundaram, and K. Thyagarajan.
While Pankaj Mehta was with the UNICEF here, the other eight men were from Tiruchi in Tamil Nadu. They came here on Saturday evening and checked into the Grand Hotel.
Hotel manager Phurba Sherpa told The Hindu, “All the eight persons were part of the Tiruchirapalli Centre Builders Association. They first communicated with us on August 21 and booked rooms for three nights and four days. They checked into the hotel on Saturday at 5 p.m., and were scheduled to check out on September 27. They left for their mountain flight this morning at 5.45 a.m.”
The Indian Embassy said it was “providing all assistance for the prompt evacuation of the remains of the Indian nationals killed in the accident.”
The helpline numbers at the embassy are: 00-977-1-4423702 (direct); 00-977-1-4410900 (Extension 4109); 00-977-1-4414990 (Extension 4109); and 00-977-1-4411699 (Extension 4109).
Aviation experts said the crash was a typical case of Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT). One of them, Hemant Arjyal, said: “The clouds this morning were rather low but not moisture-laden. It appears that the aircraft took the visual approach and the pilot got ‘in and out’ of the cloud. The plane seems to have been too close to the hill and touched it.”
Another expert, Kunda Dixit, told The Hindu: “This plane was coming back after not being able to see the Mount Everest. The south approach to the runaway was open. There were two other Everest flights ahead of this one. To give them more space, the pilot went too far to the east. The clouds were low because of all-night rain. The pilot must have assumed it was just a cloud, but there was a mountain hidden. 95 per cent of Nepal’s aviation crashes are CFIT, and they occur in the monsoon when clouds cover the mountains. If you are slightly off course, you hit the mountain. The real tragedy is we have not learnt the lessons from past crashes with better pilot training, and better equipment.”
The black box of the aircraft has been found, and an official three-member committee, led by a former Director-General of the Civil Aviation Authority Nepal has been set up to investigate the cause of the crash.