Tribhuvan: A nightmare for pilots

Kamol Zoha Khan | Update:

Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) of Nepal.The Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) of Nepal, where a US-Bangla aircraft crashed while attempting to land killing at least 50 people on Monday, has been notorious all along for the tough calculations pilots are to make for landing and taking off.

There are several risks to be calculated while landing at Tribhuvan.

In the first place, the airport is surrounded by mountains from all sides and the second, the area is often engulfed by dense fog thanks to the mountains.

Several pilots of Bangladesh Airlines who used to conduct regular flights to the airport have said this.

Seeking anonymity, one of them said, TIA is 4,400 feet above the see level while there are 8700 feet high mountains 9000 miles from the the airport. All these make the landing very difficult.

A pilot has to aptly do the landing just after the mountain is crossed. It is not usual straight landing like the other international airports, he added.

Despite these risks, airlines operate flights in Nepal, the highly attractive tourist spot in the Himalayas, carrying numerous tourists every day.

Former president of Bangladesh Airlines Pilots’ Association SM Nasimul Haque said landing at the Kathmandu airport requires perfection when a slight mismatch could bring disaster.

“We once flew there with a Fokker aircraft even whereas many ultramodern aircrafts face accidents.”

AFP news agency said the maintenance of Tribhuvan is ‘inadequate’ and management ‘substandard’ making its air safety record ‘poor’. 

Two months ago, a Thai airliner had crashed near Tribhuvan, killing 113.

According to BBC, more than 70 international aircrafts have so far fallen victims to accidents while landing at Tribhuvan, killing over 650 people.

The other disadvantage is that the airport authorities have not yet installed the automated landing system. Had the automated landing system been in place in the airport like other international ones, the Air Traffic Control (ATC) room could have given instructions to the plane at only 50 feet above the ground.

It is enough for pilots to keep a watch from only 800 meters away from the runway in the international airports like Bangladesh and others having automated landing system.

But, pilots need to keep a watch on the runway from as much as three kilometres away from it while landing in the Tribhuvan airport, thanks to the lack of the automated landing system.

The airport is furthermore surrounded by mountains with a maximum height of 25,000 feet and that’s why pilots, immediately after the take-off, are to take the airplane at least 11,000 feet high to decide its direction.

*The report has been rewritten in English by Nusrat Nowrin.

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