KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — A plane crash at Nepal’s main airport killed 49 people among the 71 on board, police said Tuesday, after a recording indicated confusion over the landing direction before the plane, flying low and erratically, struck the ground and erupted in flames.
The pilot did not follow the control tower’s instructions and approached the airport’s one runway from the wrong direction, the Kathmandu airport’s general manager said.
“The airplane was not properly aligned with the runway. The tower repeatedly asked if the pilot was OK and the reply was ‘yes,'” Raj Kumar Chetri said.
But the conversations between the pilot and air traffic controllers indicated confusion over which direction the plane should land. In the recording posted by air traffic monitoring website liveatc.net, conversation veers repeatedly about whether the pilot should land from the south or the north.
Just before landing the pilot asks “Are we cleared to land?”
Moments later, the controller comes back on, using a tone rarely heard in such conversations — perhaps even panic — and tells the pilot: “I say again, turn!”
Seconds later, the controller orders fire trucks onto the runway.
US-Bangla Airlines flight BS211 from Dhaka to Kathmandu was carrying 67 passengers and four crew members.
Police spokesman Manoj Neupane said Tuesday that 49 people were confirmed to have been killed and 22 injured. They were being treated in several hospitals in Nepal’s capital. Autopsies would be done at the Teaching Hospital morgue.
The government has ordered an investigation into the crash. A statement from the prime minister’s office said the six-member team headed by a former government secretary will gather the facts to determine the cause and prevent future crashes.
The plane had circled Tribhuvan International Airport twice as it waited for clearance to land, Mohammed Selim, the airline’s manager in Kathmandu, told Dhaka-based Somoy TV by telephone.