Home World News 17 years after her husband’s accident in Nepal, a pilot suffers the same fate

17 years after her husband’s accident in Nepal, a pilot suffers the same fate

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17 years after her husband’s accident in Nepal, a pilot suffers the same fate

KATHMANDU, Nepal – When her husband, a pilot for a small Nepalese airline, was killed in a plane crash in 2006, Anju Khatiwada made a promise: he would continue his dream.

Despite her family’s opposition, she gave up her nursing career and pursued pilot training in the United States for years, raising her daughter with the help of her parents.

Upon his return to Nepal in 2010 he started flying for the same company, Yeti Airlinesand rose to the rank of captain after accumulating thousands of flying hours.

Domenica suffered the same fate as her husband.

The twin-prop plane he was co-piloting crashed 1.5 kilometers from the runway of a newly built airport in Pokhara, a Himalayan tourist destination.

Of the 72 people on board, the bodies of 69 had been recovered on Monday, making it the deadliest aviation disaster in the country in decades.

“Anju’s father had asked her not to choose the profession of pilot,” said Gopal Regmi, a relative and close friend of her father.

“After her husband’s tragic death, she was determined to become a pilot.”

The family’s twin calamities are part of a deadly pattern in Nepal.

The small South Asian nation has suffered a string of accidents and other aviation safety woes over the past few decades, a troubling record attributed to difficult terrain and unpredictable weather, as well as a inadequate regulationoutdated fleets and low technical capacity.

The Nepalese government appointed a five-member committee to investigate the latest crash and the plane’s flight data recorder was recovered on Monday.

The cause of the catastrophe was unclear;

Aviation experts have warned that only an investigation could establish exactly why the plane, built about 15 years ago by French-Italian manufacturer ATR, crashed.

But experts said possible causes, based on video taken moments before the crash, could range from engine failure to a sudden loss of control by the pilot.

The video, recorded by eyewitnesses in the residential area surrounding Pokhara airport, showed how a wing of the ATR-72 would suddenly crash while the aircraft was descending in clear skies.

It then plunged into a ravine and exploded into fire and smoke.

Another video, broadcast live on Facebook, was recorded inside the plane as it approached the runway and the passengers recovered their phone signal.

It was spread by an Indian passenger, Sonu Jaiswal, who was traveling to a revered Hindu shrine and sightseeing in and around Nepal with three friends from the same district in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh where they lived.

In the 90-second video, Jaiswal, who worked as a liquor salesman, is seen wearing a yellow T-shirt.

He and his friends are seen cheering in the excitement of landing before the plane lurches sideways.

Screams are briefly heard before the flames take over the images.

“Sonu was showing it live on Facebook. His phone must have burned out when he stopped,” explains his friend Vishal Kushwaha, who was supposed to join the trip but pulled out at the last minute due to family illness.

“They were supposed to come back today.”

Jaiswal’s father Rajendra Prasad Jaiswal, who was on his way to Nepal to identify the body, said he learned of the incident from his son’s Facebook page.

The youngest Jaiswal leaves behind a wife, a 4-year-old daughter and an 8-month-old son.

Among the passengers on the plane were 53 Nepalese, five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans and one person from Australia, Argentina, France and Ireland.

There were also four Nepalese crew members.

Nepal has suffered more than 30 fatal plane crashes since the early 1990s, according to the Aviation Safety Network.

In May 2021, 22 people died in the crash of a plane operated by Tara Air – a sister airline of Yeti – during a 20-minute flight from Pokhara to Jomsom, a trekking destination.

In 2016, the crash of another Tara Air flight from Pokhara to Jomsom killed 23 people.

The accidents continued even as government officials signaled improvements in aviation regulations.

In 2009, a United Nations watchdog classified the enforcement of security protocols in Nepal as a 47%, well below the acceptable level at the time, and Nepalese airlines had been blacklisted by the European Union.

That rating improved to 70 percent in 2022, when Nepal was last surveyed, according to the country’s civil aviation agency.

But the audit, according to local media reports, continued to express concern about deficiencies in air navigation, accident investigation and the organizational structure needed to enforce safety regulations.

Prior to the pandemic, Nepal had experienced a steady expansion of air travel, both domestic and international.

The sightseeing, which contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to the country, one of the poorest in the region, has recovered after a sharp decline during the pandemic.

Experts and officials have long worried about airports’ ability to meet growing demand.

Nepal’s difficult orography, with some of the highest mountain ranges in the world, means that much air travel is done by small planes traveling between the nearly four dozen of the country’s small airports.

Major international flights are limited to the capital’s main airport, Kathmandu.

A third international airport opened this month in Pokhara, the site of Sunday’s crash, after construction financed by a $200 million Chinese loan.

Bijender Siwach, a retired military pilot and CEO of Aviation Safety India, a non-profit organization that conducts crash analysis and training, said videos of the crash suggested that the weather and terrain they were not determining factorsbecause the sky was clear and the aircraft was a short distance from the runway.

While definitive answers will only come with the investigation, Siwach said, the cause may have been a mechanical failure or a case of human error which put the aircraft into what is known as a stall.

If so, the plane brakes too much being able to stay in the air and lose control.

“Had it happened at 5,000 or 10,000 feet, the aircraft could have recovered to 2,000 feet if the pilot had reacted,” Siwach said.

“But because the altitude was too low, maybe 200 or 300 feet, the pilot didn’t stand a chance.”

Yeti Airlines officials have rejected previous reports that the plane I had lost communication with air traffic control towers.

Sudarshan Bartaula, an airline spokesman, said the airport had given the landing clearance.

“The crash happened about two kilometers from the airport, which takes 15-20 seconds to land there,” he said.

Bartaula said both the captain and co-pilot had extensive experience. Kamal KC, the 58-year-old captain, had 21,900 flight hours, while Khatiwada, 44, had 6,396 flight hours.

Khatiwada’s husband, Dipak Pokhrel, was a military helicopter pilot before joining Yeti.

The Twin Otter utility plane he was co-piloting in 2006 crashed near the Jumla airstrip, killing all nine on board.

His daughter, now an adult and living in Canada, was just 6 years old when Pokhrel died, said Regmi, the relative.

He recounted the story of what Khatiwada had said during his interview to get the American visa that would allow him to undergo pilot training.

“I just want to wear the white uniform like my husband and work as a pilot,” she said, according to Regmi.

Photos of her in her pilot uniform and messages of condolences circulated on social media on Monday.

c.2023 The New York Times Society

Source: Clarin

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