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27 February 2024

Plane makes emergency landing after fatal crashes

Nepalese onlookers gather around the Air Kasthamandap crash site in Kalikot District some 650 kms west of Kathmandu. (AFP)


A plane with nine passengers on board was forced to make an emergency landing at Kathmandu airport Wednesday, an aviation official said, a week after two deadly crashes highlighted Nepal's dismal air safety record.

The 19-seater plane was taking off for Lukla, known as the gateway to Mount Everest, when a bird struck its right wing, Kathmandu airport official Ranjan Bhattarai said.

"The Lukla-bound Goma Air plane made an emergency landing... within three to four minutes of takeoff, due to a bird hit," Bhattarai told AFP.

"No passengers were harmed," he said, adding that engineers were inspecting the grounded aircraft for signs of damage.

The incident comes a week after two deadly plane crashes in the impoverished Himalayan nation, whose air safety record is blamed largely on inadequate maintenance, inexperienced pilots and poor management.

A Twin Otter turboprop aircraft slammed into a mountainside in Nepal last Wednesday killing all 23 people on board.

Two days later, two pilots were killed when a small passenger plane crash-landed in the country's hilly midwest.

Birds have traditionally posed a serious safety concern for Kathmandu's airport, which is located close to forested hills.

In 2012, a plane crashed shortly after taking off from the airport when it hit a bird, killing all 19 people on board.

An investigation concluded that the pilot panicked, causing the plane to crash.

Despite the risks, air travel is popular in Nepal, which has a limited road network. Many communities, particularly in the mountains and hills, are accessible only on foot or by air.

The European Union blacklisted all Nepal's airlines in 2013.