They flew the plane back to Kathmandu, where Yeti Airlines merged it with another flight that was not full. YT691 then took off from Kathmandu again at 1032, and had already got ATC clearance to land on runway 30 when the captain asked for runway 12 from the west. The controller complied because there was no other traffic, but did not ask for the reason, according to sources.
But while making the base to final turn over the old airport, the ATR72 stalled and crashed into the Seti Gorge, narrowly missing a residential area densely packed with houses.
Eyewitness videos show the plane in a nose-up attitude, flying very slow and low, and seemingly in a landing configuration without flaps deployed. The end was swift, a video live-streamed by an Indian tourist of the final moments shows that it took only a few seconds between when the plane began to roll to impact.
None of the 72 passengers and four crew are believed to have survived. Rescue efforts were hampered by gawkers and selfie takers, although there were heroic efforts by local youth to pull some passengers out of the flaming wreckage.
The actual reason for the crash will have to await analysis of the Flight Data Recorder (Black Box) and Cockpit Voice Recorder by an investigation committee that has been formed.
But it is clear from the videos that the plane stalled on the final turn. The question is why?
A plane suffers a wing stall when there is insufficient lift either due to multiple engine failure, steep bank turn or angle of attack and/or failure to maintain air speed. Captain Kamal KC was a veteran with nearly 22,000 hours, with much of it on BA Jetstreams and ATR72s.
Co-pilot Anju Khatiwada had logged 6,500 hours, and was sitting on the left cockpit seat on a final clearance flight to earn her captain’s wings, which she would have got upon landing YT691 that day.
Ironically, Khatiwada’s husband had died in a crash of a Yeti Airlines Twin Otter in Jumla in 2006, when that plane also stalled while making a tight turn on finals.