Kathmandu/Dhaka: The captain of a Bangladeshi aeroplane “seemed to have an emotional breakdown” before a deadly crash last March, Reuters quoted Nepali investigators as saying in a final report on the Himalayan nation’s worst aviation disaster in 26 years.
They blamed the crew’s loss of 'situational awareness' for the crash of the US-Bangla Airlines flight to the Nepali capital from Dhaka that caught fire on landing in Kathmandu, killing 51 of the 71 people aboard.
“The pilot thought he could manoeuvre the aircraft and land. But he could not,” panel official Buddhisagar Lamichhane was quoted by Reuters as telling the agency on Monday, referring to the captain.
The captain was under stress and “emotionally disturbed” because he felt that a female colleague who was not on board the flight had questioned his reputation as a good instructor, Nepal’s Accident Investigation Commission said in the report.
“This, together with the failure on the part of both the crew to follow the standard operating procedure at the critical stage of the flight, contributed to the loss of situational awareness,” the investigators said in their report.
This lack of awareness meant the crew did not realise the deviation of the aircraft, a Bombardier Inc Q400 turboprop, from its intended path, which in turn meant they could not sight the runway, they added.
Having missed the runway, the crew was flying very low north of it in an incorrect position near hilly and mountainous terrain around the airport, it said.
“Finally, when the crew sighted the runway, they were very low and too close to (it) and not properly aligned,” added the investigators, saying the captain should have halted the landing and initiated a go-around.
The plane skidded off the runway on to surrounding grass, quickly catching fire. Both pilots were among those killed.
US-Bangla Airlines CEO Imran Asif said in a statement that the report focused almost entirely on the captain’s state of mind and his distress over personal matters but disappointingly avoided recognising “serious lapses” on the part of air traffic control.
The Nepali investigators found that decisions by air traffic controllers, such as not calling for the aircraft to carry out a missed approach, were among the accident’s contributing factors, but not the cause.