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How a Crash-Landed Turkish Airlines Plane Cut Nepal’s Ties to the Skies for Days

A Turkish Airlines Airbus 330 that skidded off the runway on the morning of March 4 at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu, created waves of confusion at Nepal’s only international air hub, effectively limiting citizens of the landlocked country to overland travel before a ban on flights was lifted today.

The TK 726 flight that took off from Istanbul was due to land at the TIA at 6:55 AM local time. However, the pilot failed to land the plane in spite of trying twice and at the third attempt the craft missed the runway and skidded across a grassy patch.

By sheer luck, none of the 224 passengers died in the botched landing attempt.

As quoted by popular Nepali news portal Onlinekhabar, a passenger on board, Shashi Poudel, blamed the landing gears not working as the main cause of the accident.

A fellow passenger Dikesh Malhotra deemed poor visibility the main evil.

As the plane could not be lifted off from the runway on time, the authorities closed the airport and no international flights took off or landed at the TIA for over three days. Thousands of passengers were left sulking at the airport.

The government sought the help of Indian Air Force’s Hercules aircraft to remove the plane from the crash-landed site.

Though the TK 726 averted disaster, Nepal has suffered a poor track record in terms of air safety since planes first started flying in and out of the country in 1949, with more than 70 air crashes killing more than 600 people during that time.

The biggest casualty was a Pakistan Airlines (PIA) plane crash that killed 167 people in September 1992.

Just two months before that incident, an ill-fated Thai Airways International flight crashed amidst heavy rain, killing 113 people.

Nepal is also home to the Tenzing Hillary Airport in Lukla, considered one of the world’s most dangerous airports. According to one online listicle:

The landing and take-off strips here are very short. The airport operates at an altitude of 8,000 feet (2,438 m) and has virtually no modern air traffic control features.

In spite of airports linking the remote areas of Nepal to the rest of the country, Nepalese traditionally rely on roads for internal transportation. And the closure of the airport after the Turkish Airlines fiasco left people reliant on the same method for international travel.

The Tribhuvan International Airport recommenced its operations on the evening of March 7.

Read more: globalvoicesonline.orgWritten by Sanjib Chaudhary

TN

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