UPDATE: The missing Tara Air Twin Otter on a Pokhara- Jomsom flight on Wednesday morning has been found at Soli Ghoptebhir in Myagdi. It was carrying 23 passengers and crew. Local police state that there are no survivors. Investigators will now have to look at a possible connection between the crash and the rockfall avalanche on Annapurna South that had been spewing a huge dust cloud over the Kali Gandaki valley since Tuesday. The crash site is located 10 km on the other side of the Kali Gandaki from where the rockfall was taking place.
The crash of a Tara Air Twin Otter on a Pokhara-Jomsom flight on Wednesday morning carrying 23 passengers and crew couldn’t have come at a worse time for the airline and for Nepal.
Just two weeks ago, Tara Air had received the IATA Standard Safety Assessment (ISSA) certification after safety audits. And stricter safety regulations by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) had started yielding results and there hasn’t been a fatal crash of a regular flight since February 2014.
It also comes at the start of the spring trekking season in the Himalaya and when Nepal’s tourism industry was just recovering from last April’s earthquake and the Indian blockade.
The enroute terrain is one of the most challenging in the world and passes along the Kali Gandaki gorge between two eight-thousand metre peaks, Dhaulagiri and Annapurna.
The Twin Otter DHC-6 400 series with registration 9N-AHH took off at 8:15 AM from Pokhara and weather was reported to be good at both ends.
The passenger manifest has two foreigners among the passengers, one Chinese and one Kuwaiti national, and the plane was piloted by Capt Roshan Manandhar a veteran flier who was just six months short of retirement.
Before this, Nepal’s domestic aviation had suffered nine accidents involving more than 120 fatalities in the last ten years. Although it will take time to determine what caused this latest crash, previous causes have been plane hitting mountains in cloud, by overloading, or a combination of weather and mechanical issues.
Since some of the crashes were on tourist routes, the European Union blacklisted Nepal’s airlines in 2013, requiring travel agents to inform passengers and raising insurance premiums. The EU Air Safety Committee had kept Nepal on the blacklist despite a marked improvement in aviation safety in the past three years.
This month, Yeti Airlines and its subsidiary Tara Air got the ISSA certification which is awarded to smaller operators after audits find that they comply with global safety standards.
Recent crashes in Nepal:
8 October 2008, Yeti Airlines 103, Kathmandu to Lukla, crashed in Lukla, 18 fatalities
24 August 2010, Agni Air 101, Kathmandu to Lukla, crashed in Makwanpur, 14 fatalities
25 September 2011, Buddha Air 103, Mountain flight, crashed in Lalitpur, 19 fatalities
14 May 2012, Agni Air CHT, Pokhara to Jomsom, crashed in Jomsom, 15 fatalities
28 September 2012, Sita Air 601, Kathmandu to Lukla, crashed in Kathmandu, 19 fatalities
16 May 2013, Nepal Airlines 555, Pokhara to Jomsom, crashed in Jomsom, no fatalities
17 February 2014, Nepal Airlines, Pokhara to Jumla, crashed in Arghakhanchi, 18 fatalities
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