The pilot of a plane that crashed in Kathmandu last year killing 51 people was smoking in the cockpit, a report into the incident has found.
- Report finds the pilot was disturbed because he felt a colleague had questioned his reputation as an instructor
- He was released from the Bangladeshi Air Force in 1993 due to depression but was later declared fit to fly civilian aircraft
- Garbled recording released after the crash revealed the pilot attempted to approach the runway from the wrong end
The plane carrying 71 people on a flight from Bangladesh swerved erratically and flew dangerously low to Kathmandu’s single runway before crashing and erupting into flames.
A civil aviation report into the US-Bangla Airlines flight’s last moments found the pilot had been smoking in the cockpit during the flight.
It also stated the pilot’s emotional state was a factor in the crash.
Citing the plane’s voice recorder, the report found the captain was disturbed because he felt that a female colleague had questioned his reputation as a good instructor.
He was “engaged in unnecessary, unprofessional and lengthy conversation even in the critical phase”, according to the report from Nepal’s Accident Investigation Commission.
The 52-year-old pilot, Abid Sultan, was released from the Bangladeshi Air Force in 1993 because he suffered from depression but was later declared fit to fly civilian aircraft.
A recording of garbled communication between the pilot and Kathmandu’s air traffic control was released just after the crash, which revealed the pilot was attempting to approach from the wrong end of the runway.
“The airplane was not properly aligned with the runway,” said the airport’s General Manager Raj Kumar Chetri at the time of the crash.
“The tower repeatedly asked if the pilot was ok and the reply was ‘yes’.”
The report found that according to the cockpit recording, the pilot had stated that the landing gears were down before approach.
But the recording shows that during a final landing checklist, the co-pilot mentioned that the landing gears were not down.
Many of those killed in the crash were Nepali medical students who had been returning home from their studies in Bangladesh.
The captain and the 25-year-old female first officer were also killed.
Twenty passengers survived the March 12, 2018 crash, with the quick actions of firefighters on the ground credited for their rescue.
The report has recommended better screening of the mental health of pilots.
It was the Himalayan nation’s worst aviation disaster in 26 years.
The landing at Kathmandu’s international airport is considered one of the most difficult in the world due to terrain and geography.
In 1992, all 167 on board a Pakistan International Airlines aeroplane were killed when it crashed into a nearby hill on landing.