World's Riskiest Place for Flying Averages One Disaster a Year

30 May, 2022
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World's Riskiest Place for Flying Averages One Disaster a Year

Flying is notoriously risky in Nepal, the picturesque Himalayan nation that's a favorite with adventurous tourists, pilgrims and mountaineers. On Sunday, the country suffered its 10th deadly plane crash in as many years. 

A 43-year-old twin-engine aircraft operated by Tara Air and carrying 22 people lost contact after taking off from Pokhara -- a lakeside tourist mecca nestled below the Annapurna mountain range -- for a short flight to the trekking base of Jomsom. The wreckage of the plane was found Monday on a mountainside and 14 bodies have been recovered, according to Nepalese authorities. 

A search involving about 60 rescuers is ongoing in very bad weather and difficult terrain, Deo Chandra Lal Karn, a spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Ministry, told Bloomberg News. The plane was carrying 13 Nepali passengers, four Indians, two Germans and three crew, he said.

This is the 10th fatal plane crash in Nepal in 10 years, including another involving Tara Air in 2016, Aviation Safety Network data show. And that's with far fewer flights than usual in Nepal over the past two years due to Covid.  

Nepal's "diversity of weather patterns together with hostile topography" make flying challenging and have contributed to accidents, the country's civil aviation authority said in a 2019 safety report. The capital Kathmandu is Nepal's primary air-travel gateway, from where people take smaller aircraft operated by local carriers to reach remote parts of the country and tiny towns in the middle of the world's highest mountain range.  

Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla, northeast Nepal, is often referred to as the world's most dangerous airport, with a single runway that angles down toward a valley below. Eighteen passengers and crew died when a Yeti Airlines turboprop crashed there in 2008.

Global regulators have taken notice, with as many as 20 Nepalese airlines prohibited from flying to Europe. In 2015, the United Nation's International Civil Aviation Organization prioritized Nepal for technical assistance, and later said "the country's beautiful but rugged terrain makes the safety of air operations more challenging than in other areas of the world."  

The wreckage of the plane that crashed Sunday was located near the district of Mustang in the country's northwest after locals reported seeing "something burning," a Nepal Army spokesman said in a Twitter post. 

Source: Bloomberg

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