Things seem to be going smoothly enough as Co-pilot Prithula Rashid handles cockpit communications with the TIA tower. The aircraft is cleared to descend and land at the southern ‘02’ end of the runway.
At one point, however, Capt Abid Sultan takes over even as a female air traffic controller (ATC) comes on to inform the aircraft that it is moving towards the northern ‘20’ side of the airport when he had been given permission to land on ‘02’.
There seems to be some confusion in the mind of the pilot about the runway ends 02 (south) and 20 (north). Even as the Dash 8 is on approach, the Nepali pilots of other aircraft are heard warning the ATC that the US-Bangla pilot seems disoriented and that he should be taken out of harm’s way with the help of radar. They point out that the pilot didn’t seem to know where he was and were worried about where he would end up (‘almaliyo jasto chha’, ‘yo kata jaala’).
Tragedy at TIA, Kanak Mani Dixit
Ashna isn’t coming home, Sikuma Rai
We had to improvise
Air jam, Om astha Rai
An exasperated male ATC comes on to warn the pilot at one point: “I say again, do not proceed towards Runway 20.” Again, he is asked to remain on hold and not to land because there is another Buddha Air aircraft on approach.
After that plane lands, the ATC asks the pilot whether he wants to land on Runway 02 or 20, and he chooses the latter. He is then asked if he has the airstrip in sight, to which he replies, “Negative”. Then, immediately thereafter, the pilot reports, “Affirmative”.
At that point Capt Sultan announces his understanding: “Cleared to land Runway 02” (even though he had sought permission for 20). The ATC too now clears him to land on 02. Talking to a Nepal Army helicopter (Army 53) which is on hold 15 km away, the ATC says that the Bangladesh aircraft is “on final for 20”.
Apparently, this was Capt Sultan’s fifth flight of the day, and he had just sent in his resignation to the US-Bangla management in order to join a Gulf airline.