Recurrent plane crashes at Lukla Airport

Published On: May 28, 2017 10:03 AM NPT By: Guna Raj Luitel  | @gunaraj

KATHMANDU, May 28: The investigation into aircraft crash often comes to the conclusion that the concerned pilot is responsible for the crash. After drawing such a conclusion attributing plane crash to the negligence of the concerned pilot, the responsibility of the concerned authority comes to an end. However, despite the repetition of plane crashes of a similar nature, Nepal Civil Aviation(NCA) does not think about ways of forestalling them.

Goma Air cargo plane crash that took place at Tenjing Hillary Airport located at Lukla of Solukhumbu district on Saturday has called into question aircraft technology, civil aviation and air service providers once again. Located at an altitude of 2845 meters, Lukla airport is one of the most dangerous airports despite  being a prototype of engineering feat.

According to aviation experts, the airplane has to fly in a narrow air encircled by hills few minutes before landing. The low invisibility caused by bad weather forces the pilot to resort to flying at a low altitude above the meander of Dudhkoshi river, which is more likely to result in air crash. Aviation experts have guessed that this same fact accounts for the crash   of  Goma Air cargo plane  made in the Czech Republic.

When the pilot resorts to what is called in aviation parlance “low approach”, the speed with which the air plane flies decreases. According to preliminary estimate, the Goma Air cargo plane might have crashed in such a state before reaching the runway.

In some circumstances, low approach becomes something the pilot is forced to resort to due to air. But, a question has arisen: why was the airplane was set in low approach state despite low air pressure that was in existence at the time of crash? How effective the role of Air Traffic Controllers was in such a situation may be something worth conducting a probe into.

Why should we be afraid of Lukla Airport?

Considered as the gateway to Mount Everest, Lukla Airport is fraught with dangers even at a time when the sky is very clear due to high air pressure in the air. In monsoon season, unpredictability of weather in the areas surrounding the airport as well as along the air route makes the flight more dangerous. Pilots have to face a difficult situation when the airport is covered with clouds. Depending upon weather condition, the pilot is forced to resort to either flying in a low approach state or flying at a high altitude.

Despite nine crashes involving both small and big airplanes, the CAA has not paid heed to finding out ways of addressing challenges posed by capricious weather , air pressure, temperature and poor visibility.

The CAA has not paved the ends of the airport yet. According to aviation experts, the concerned authority does not regularly monitor the circumstances in which the pilot flies the airplane and it lands.

The CAA and its constituents lack an ability to instruct the pilots to not fly the airplane by putting it in low approach state. According to one aviation expert who requested anonymity, the concerned authority has not been paying attention to the act of ensuring the safe flight to Lukla where 30 to 35 flights are recorded on a daily basis.

The concerned authority has not developed a realizable mechanism by which investigation and rescue activities can be expedited as soon as the air crash takes place. It is evidenced by the fact that the rescue team took up to one and half hour to take the crew members out of the incident site.

“The past air crashes could not be salutary experiences for government and therefore it failed to act accordingly in handling the Goma Cargo Air crash”, said the above-mentioned aviation expert preferring to be anonymous. He went so far as to saying that the CAA is so obsessed with bonus distribution that it showed no interest in making investments for the improvement of air flight conditions.

Aviation Certification

Only airplanes belonging to such broad aircraft types as Twin Otter, Dornier and LET-410 have been flying to Lukla airport. Small airport like Lukla is known as STOL airfield. STOL stands for short takeoff and landing. Aircraft manufacturing company sets a maximum limit on takeoff  and landing weights. The standards thus laid down are verified by EAASA or FAA. Though Dornier and Twin Otter planes can carry as many as 18 persons, the concerned manufacturing company has allowed the air service provider to carry only 12 to 14 persons in cases where they fly to the airports located at the same altitude as Lukla airport. In case of the ill-fated LET-410 airplane, the manufacturing company in the Czech Republic had granted permission to carry as many as 18 persons. However, none of the International monitoring agencies such as European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Federal Aviation Authority of America(FAA) had verified the permission granted by the manufacturing company in the Czech Republic.



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