Plane crashes in Nepal are very common. Not only domestic flights crash but also foreign ones killing hundreds of people. Nepal has also had several serious aviation disasters in recent years.
Over the last 30 years, there have been 27 fatal plane crashes in Nepal. Of them, more than 20 tragic aviation incidents have occurred in the recent decade.
Nepal has a long history of plane catastrophes, ranging from the US-Bangla plane tragedy to local flight crashes such as the recent Tara Air crash. Some of the most heinous plane crashes in Nepal have been listed below. [Note: The particular list contains only aeroplane crashes and the mentioned incidents have been arranged chronologically.]
1. Royal Nepal Airlines plane crash
On August 1, 1962, a Douglas DC-3 operated by then Royal Nepal Airlines crashed in Nepal while on an international scheduled passenger flight from Gaucher Airport [Tribhuvan International Airport today] to Palam Airport [Indira Gandhi International Airport today] in India. The plane’s wreckage, registered 9N-AAP, was discovered near Tulachan Dhuri in Nepal. It was one of the earliest plane crashes in Nepal.
The disaster killed all 10 passengers and four staff members on board. The official investigation said that the aircraft had veered off course while flying under instrument meteorological circumstances and tried to reach an altitude at which it could restart operating under visual flight rules before colliding with a mountain at 11,200 feet (3,400 m).
The crash killed everybody on board including the Indian envoy to Nepal. According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal’s official report, the three-man crew was highly experienced.
2. Thai Airways plane crash
On July 31, 1992, Thai Airways International Flight 311 was en route to Tribhuvan International Airport from Thailand’s Don Mueang International Airport. The Airbus A310-304, with registration HS-TID, crashed while approaching the Tribhuvan International Airport.
The captain and air traffic controller’s loss of situational awareness of linguistic and technical challenges caused the captain to suffer aggravation and a high workload.
It was revealed that the first officer’s lack of initiative and inconclusive responses to the captain’s concerns and due to his inexperience, poor command of English, and reluctance to intervene with what he considered as flying considerations such as terrain separation.
It was one of the plane crashes in Nepal that taught many lessons to the Nepali aviation sector.
3. Pakistan International Airlines crash
On September 28, 1992, Pakistan International Airlines Flight 268, registration AP-BCP, crashed as it was approaching Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. The whole 167-person crew died in this incident. Flight 268 was the deadliest accident in Pakistan International Airlines history as well as one of the worst plane crashes in Nepal.
The flight began at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi and ended at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, carrying 155 passengers and 12 crew members. It was one of the high-fatality plane crashes in Nepal.
The plane crashed at an altitude of about 7,280 feet (about 2,220 metres) into the slope of the 8,250-foot peak of Bhattedanda, Lalitpur, 9.16 nautical miles from the airport. The investigation found that the approach to the airport is extremely challenging owing to the surrounding topography and that the jet began to descend too soon due to the pilot’s mistake.
4. Royal Nepal Airlines Twin Otter crash
On July 27, 2000, a Royal Nepal Airlines de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter crashed on its way from Bajhang Airport to Dhangadhi Airport. The plane’s wreckage, registered 9N-ABP, was discovered in Jogbudha of the Dadeldhura district.
It was also one of the plane crashes in Nepal in which all the passengers and crew members (25) were killed. Nepali officials initiated an inquiry into the collision when the disaster scene was discovered. The aircraft was discovered to have crashed with trees on the 4,300-foot Jarayakhali Hill in the Sivalik Hills in Jogbuda, Dadeldhura, where it caught fire. The collision killed all people, including three crew members and 22 passengers, three of whom were little children.
5. Yeti Airlines crash
Yeti Airlines Airliner 103 was a domestic Nepali flight that crashed on its final approach to Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla, eastern Nepal, on October 8, 2008. The De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter Series 300, registration 9N-AFE, took off from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. As many as 14 of the fatalities were vacationers, according to reports.
There were 12 Germans and two Australians aboard the trip. Surendra Kunwar, the aircraft’s captain, was the only survivor. He was rescued from the debris immediately after the accident and rushed to Kathmandu for emergency care. The pilot lost visual contact due to severe weather and high fog but tried a visual approach because there are no instrument landing systems at Lukla.
The aircraft came in too low and too far left, causing it to crash short of the runway when the landing gear became entangled in a perimeter fence on airport grounds.
6. Agni Air crash
Agni Air Aircraft 101 was a regional flight from Kathmandu to Lukla, Nepal, that crashed on August 24, 2010, killing all 14 passengers and crew. The aircraft crew reported a mechanical problem 20 minutes after takeoff. Contact with the aircraft was soon lost. The plane went down 50 miles (80 kilometres) south of Kathmandu.
The inquiry into the disaster discovered that the pilot suffered from spatial disorientation as a result of the loss of flying instruments when both generators failed. Because the team was utilising an outdated checklist, the backup battery power was depleted prematurely. This again is one of the plane crashes in Nepal that killed everyone on board, including eight Nepali natives and six foreigners making it a fatal disaster. Four of the foreigners were American ladies, one British, and one Japanese.
7. Buddha Air flight crash
Buddha Air Flight 103, a Beechcraft 1900D commuter plane, crashed in Lalitpur, Nepal, on September 25, 2011, while attempting to land in bad weather at the nearby Kathmandu Airport. The plane’s 19 passengers and crew members were all killed, making it one among the plane crashes in Nepal in which all onboard passengers lost their lives. The Buddha Air aircraft was on a tourist journey to Mount Everest.
According to reports, the plane was flying under visual flight rules (VFR) when it hit clouds and crashed at 5,400 feet (approx 1,650 metres) two minutes before landing. According to air traffic controllers and members of the investigating team, the cause of the incident was a pilot error.
8. Sita Air crash
Sita Air Flight 601 (ST601) was a Nepali domestic passenger flight operated by Sita Air from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport to Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla. The Dornier 228 servicing the route crashed shortly after takeoff on September 28, 2012, while attempting an emergency landing in Kathmandu, where all 19 passengers on board were killed. It is one of the plane crash in Nepal where all onboard passengers lost their lives.
The final report issued by Nepal’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Commission (NAICC) revealed that a thrust drop occurred during the take-off roll. However, the reason for the anomaly was unknown. The aircraft crashed as a result of the crew’s inability to maintain a speed above stall speed, followed by the aircraft’s insufficient height.
9. US-Bangla plane crash
The US-Bangla Airlines Flight 211 from Dhaka of Bangladesh crashed upon landing in Kathmandu on March 12, 2018. It killed 51 of the 71 passengers on board. This event occurred when a 76-seat Bombardier Q400 crashed and erupted into flames, leaving the 20 surviving passengers critically injured from the collision and fire.
The disaster was examined by a panel constituted by the Nepali government. It published a report concluding that pilot disorientation and a loss of situational awareness on the part of the flight crew were the most likely causes of the disaster. The plane had 65 adult passengers, two minors, and four staff members on board, for a total of 71 people.
The crash killed 51 passengers and crew members, 22 from Nepal, 28 from Bangladesh, and one from China. It was one of the high-fatality plane crashes in Nepal. The majority of the Nepalis killed in the incident were medical students coming home on a break from school.
10. Tara Air plane crash
On May 30, 2022, a Tara Air jet that had been missing was discovered wrecked on a hillside. The bodies of all 22 passengers aboard the plane have been discovered. This is one of the fatal plane crashes in Nepal that occurred on the Pokhara-Jomsom route in the previous three decades.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, the plane’s wreckage was discovered in Sano Sware Bhir in Mustang’s Thasang area. The plane carried 16 Nepalis, three crew members, four Indians, and two Germans. The precise reason for the accident remains unknown.
After the crash, CAAN tightened flight permit rules that said clear weather throughout the route is now a requirement to carry out a flight.