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Aviation Lawyers Call For Urgent Improvements In Flight Safety After Nepal Accident Report Published

British Families of Sita Air Crash Victims Speak Out About Need For Lessons To Be Learnt


By Dave Grimshaw

Specialist aviation lawyers representing the families of a number of British victims killed in a fatal plane crash in Nepal last September are seeking assurances that flight safety will be improved after receiving a full accident report outlining several failings that contributed to the tragic incident.

Lawyers at Irwin Mitchell represent several British families who lost loved ones in the catastrophic Sita Air Dornier 228 crash in September last year that killed all 19 people on board, shortly after take-off from Kathmandu-Tribhuvan Airport.

That incident was the sixth fatal crash in Nepal in a two year period and since that tragic event there are believed to have been three further accidents involving planes in the country.

The accident was investigated by the Nepal Aircraft Accident Investigation Commission (NAAIC) which liaised with a number of organisations during the investigation, including the British Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB).  The NAAIC Aircraft Accident Report, released yesterday, outlines several factors which may have contributed to the crash including:

  • The twin turbo prop aircraft being overloaded by 78kg
  • An unexplained loss of power that started during the takeoff run when the crew first tried to start climbing
  • An incorrect takeoff decision speed meaning the crew tried unsuccessfully to takeoff far too early in the takeoff run, which committed them to takeoff when in fact they could have aborted
  • Crew not trained to handle this type of emergency situation
  • The pilot failed to fly the correct speed in the initial climb, resulting in deceleration and the plane ultimately falling out of the sky
  • There are references on the Cockpit Voice Recorder to a bird potentially hitting a propeller but no evidence of this causing an engine to lose power
  • The reason for a loss of power in the left engine could not be determined, but the investigators could not rule out a fuel flow problem with the engine

Jim Morris, an expert aviation lawyer at Irwin Mitchell and former RAF pilot with experience that includes flying twin turbo prop aircraft, represents the families of the British victims with other members of the Aviation Law Team. 

Having analysed the Accident Report in detail Jim said: “This accident report outlines how the NAAIC believes the fatal crash in September last year occurred and the report raises serious questions about flight safety and the competency of the airline responsible for this flight.  It also leaves many unanswered questions about what caused the loss of power and whether this was actually caused by some form of fuel flow problem. 

“There had been initial speculation that a bird strike may have caused the accident but, on analysing the report, it appears that this can now be ruled out as the probable cause, as the report found that that a bird had not been ingested into either of the engines.  If an engine fails (even if due to a bird being ingested), twin engine aircraft like the Dornier are designed to be able take off, climb safely and land using only one engine.

“The loss of power on one engine should not have resulted in this crash, but the combination of this, the overloading and errors by the crew resulted in a tragic and fatal chain of events.”

Clive Garner, Head of Aviation Law at Irwin Mitchell also said today: “We are now looking to review what steps can be taken to improve flight safety in the light of this accident report. We are already liaising with the European Commission in this regard and we are also calling upon the aviation authorities in Nepal to do more to protect future aircraft passengers flying in their air space.

“The recent history of aviation accidents in Nepal is a cause of enormous concern and this latest accident investigation report must be the catalyst for clear and decisive action to improve aviation safety in the country.

“We and the families that we represent call on the authorities in Nepal to recognise the concerns over aviation safety and ensure that a full review is carried out and ensure steps are taken to learn lessons from the past.

“The families that we represent were naturally devastated by the loss of their loved ones last year and are still coming to terms with what happened. It is too late to save their family members but they want assurances that lessons will be learnt from the incident.”

Tim Oakes, 57, from Warrington, was one of 19 people who died when a plane heading for the Everest region crashed in Kathmandu in September 2012.

His widow, Angela Gaunt, said that the report only served to confirm her concerns about flight safety, said: “The report seems to show that there was a catalogue of basic events and routines that have been badly managed, all of which have resulted in a fatal combination. 

“The report offers little comfort as it shows that none of the individual elements should have occurred and they reflect systems and processes that are poorly managed and co-ordinated. 

“To have an overweight plane is inexcusable while some of the events show a complete lack of professional decision making and training.

“I would like to thank the British AAIB for undertaking as detailed an investigation as they were able to and they have really worked hard to communicate readily with the families in a considerate and professional manner.
“I would like to think that the international aviation corporation and the European Commission, would give further consideration to blacklisting these planes until there is strong evidence of improvement in such basic routines and systems.  I also believe that European Tour Operators should give serious consideration to offering trekking holidays in Nepal until all recommended procedures are in place. “ 

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in Air Accident Claims.