Nepal Aviation Safety Review Needed After 19 Die In Dornier Crash

Concerns Raised Over Sixth Fatal Incident In The Country In Two Years

28.09.2012

Aviation lawyers are calling for a full review of aviation safety in Nepal after 19 people including seven Britons were killed in an air accident in Kathmandu, the sixth fatal plane crash in the country in the past two years.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist aviation law team have revealed their concerns as investigations continue into the incident which saw the Dornier 228-202 operated by Sita Air crash-land and catch fire shortly after take-off from the capital’s airport.

Officials in the country have stated that seven Britons were killed in the incident, alongside three crew members and four passengers from Nepal and five Chinese nationals. The UK Foreign Office has confirmed it is seeking further information regarding the British casualties and has also set up a helpline for concerned relatives.

Jim Morris, a former RAF pilot and legal expert in such cases at Irwin Mitchell’s London office, said: “The statistics in relation to aviation tragedies in Nepal in recent years speak for themselves.

“We believe that six fatal crashes in two years, as well as two involving Dornier aircraft in the past few months alone, clearly indicate that air travel and flight safety in this region needs to be carefully and thoroughly examined as a matter of urgency.

“The fundamental concern at present needs to be identifying what caused this crash – we hope that the Nepal accident investigation will be able to identify the cause quickly and publish the accident report so that lessons can be learned. 

“In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy there have been a number of press reports indicating causes ranging from the aircraft hitting a bird, a fire in the aircraft to the pilots reporting an abnormality shortly after takeoff. 

“The initial climb after takeoff is a critical stage of flight in that the low altitude and airspeed means that the aircraft is very vulnerable if it loses power or has to manoeuvre rapidly to due to a serious emergency, such as a fire.  As the Dornier is a twin engine aircraft, loss of power in one engine should not prevent it from continuing to climb safely, provided that the pilot applies the correct techniques. 

“As such, it would be surprising if a bird hitting an engine caused the pilot to ditch the aircraft.  If a bird strike did cause this accident, one would expect it to be a multiple bird strike taking out both engines – like the US Airways Airbus A320 that ditched into the Hudson River – or a very large bird that caused major structural damage, such as a vulture which has been reported by some of the press. 

“If there was a fire or abnormality with the aircraft it is crucial that the investigation identifies what the cause was to ensure that the risks of a similar problem with other Dornier 228s are eradicated.”

The crash is the sixth fatal plane crash in Nepal in the past two years, as well as the third to involve a Dornier 228 twin-propeller aircraft. The Dornier 228 has also had two non fatal accidents in the last two years in Nepal, one involving Sita Air on 12 October 2010 that crashed on landing, which was reportedly due to a fault with the braking system.

The crash on Friday comes just four months after 15 people were killed when a Dornier 228-212 operated by Agni Air crashed close to the Jomsom area of Nepal, with one crew member and five passengers surviving the incident.

Morris added: “Ultimately, the way to improve the flight safety record in Nepal is for a comprehensive investigation that identifies the chain of events that lead to this accident, then for the Nepal Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to review this and the other fatal air accidents to ensure that it provides effective regulation and control of civil aviation operations. 

“According to the NCAA website, an institutional review of the NCAA has already been instigated so it is to be hoped that any ongoing review will include and optimise the safety oversight systems used by the body.

“This is vitally important not only for the people living in Nepal but also for the large number of tourists, from Britain and around the globe, who visit the region for its geography and need reassurance that domestic and sightseeing flights in Nepal are a safe way to travel.”