Another plane crashed in Nepal this week

Post by Prasanna Dhungel

We are all very sad that another aircraft crashed in Nepal this week. 19 innocent passengers died on their way back from the Everest flight. I can only imagine how excited they must have been to see Mt Everest.

Buddha Air crash: photo: Nepali Times

Buddha Air crash: photo: Nepali Times

Three years ago, I was with my family on this same Buddha Air mountain flight. It was an unbeatable sight to fly through the majestic Himalayas. We were ecstatic when we returned to Kathmandu after seeing the breathtaking views. That day, our flight could have hit the side of the mountain in Kathmandu and I could have died, just as the passengers in the fatal Buddha Air flight that hit the mountain on Sunday.

Honestly, it can be any of us who flies in the domestic airlines in Nepal. There have been so many crashes over the last few years in Nepal. We become very sad when we see pictures and videos of the burned bodies and mourning family members. On one fatal flight a few years ago, the pilot was a year senior to me in St Xavier’s and I vividly remember his face to this day. The government sets up an investigation committee. The airlines and the government pledge to make the skies safer.  The investigation generally yields the same – ‘pilot error’. The dead pilots are blamed for going too low into the clouds, not taking the right route etc etc and we sheepishly believe them. It is so convenient to blame the dead, isn’t it?  I am fairly confident that this time again, the commission will blame the dead pilots, very little will be done and another plane will crash. The only difference will be that one of us could be on the next fatal flight – unless we question and act now!

My simple question – can the pilot always be at fault? Thousands of beechcrafts fly the skies throughout the world. If the pilot was always at fault, you would hear of many more beechcraft crashes. Yet these aircrafts don’t crash as much elsewhere as in Nepal. Why?

Let us logically think about this.  A plane can crash for one or more of the following 4 reasons -
1) Pilot error   2) Faulty aircraft engine 3)  Control tower error     4) Lack of navigational equipment on-board

Pilot error is one cause. It cannot be the only and primary cause always, as the reports tell us in Nepal. We all know that faulty aircraft engine, control tower error and lack of navigation equipment on-board are the bigger and more important reasons why aircrafts crash in Nepal.

To prevent this, we must all ask two simple questions–

  1. Why don’t Nepali domestic airlines spend extra to repair their engines and get new equipment? Yes these will cost money, but you pass this cost to the passengers. I will pay Rs 500 extra per flight for my life, than get on a Rs 500 cheaper flight and lose my life!
  1. Why don’t we have modern navigation equipment in TIA and the aircrafts? I have been on a beechcraft and it has landed on snowstorms. Why can’t we have modern navigational equipment in Nepal? TIA must install the best equipment and navigate every aircraft through the harsh Kathmandu’s terrain (a valley surrounded by high mountains). Yes that will cost extra. Collect more taxes from the passengers who are flying and buy the equipment.  It is not rocket science! Take some initiative, will you! Rs 500 or whatever amount extra per flight is worth the extra charge to have a safe flight in Nepal than getting cheap poor quality air-crafts that repeatedly crash and kill us innocents.

We cannot remain silent and accept blame put on the dead pilot. We have to pressure Buddha Air management and the air traffic controller to uncover real reasons. We have to get to the root of the problem and solve it. It is in Buddha Air’s interest, the aviation industry’s interest, Nepali tourism industry’s interest, everyone’s interest.  Show us the past reports, put them online for the world to see. If you have done your jobs well, why worry? We will even thank you.

If we pressure airlines today to timely maintain their planes, invest in weather navigation equipment and send their pilots to training schools so that everything is at the top of the game, we can fly Nepali skies safely! If we remain silent and accept blame on the dead pilot again, then any of us (I, you, your family, your friends) can be on the next fatal flight. We will be the unlucky dead ones on the news splashed in television and dailies.

Shall we Nepalis unite for a safer skies? or will we just say yet again, “yestai ho, ke garne?”. Make your choice.

If your family members, friends, neighbors and relatives work in the airlines industry or TIA, ask this question. Put pressure. Criticize them if they are not doing their job and taking the short cut. If you don’t question, you may be sorry the next time. Ask for accountability here, It’s your responsibility to do so.

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