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Thursday, May 24, 2018

New details shed light on investigation

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Fresh details have emerged over the runway confusion leading to the deadliest aviation disaster in Bangladesh’s history.

Transmissions by the Kathmandu tower controller show that, despite being cleared to land on runway 02, the US-Bangla flight began deviating from its course, according to JACDEC, a German air safety website.

The captain and the tower controller at Tribhuvan International Airport discussed which runway the aircraft was aiming for. At one point, the controller told the woman copilot she was heading toward runway 20, although the aircraft had been cleared for runway 02.

Later, the captain took over the conversation and confirmed the plan to land at runway 02. At one stage, ground control said runway 20 had also been cleared for landing, however.

“Amid much confusion, mostly on the part of the flight crew, the ultimate landing clearance on runway 02 was received,” JACDEC said in its analysis. The crash occurred less than a minute after that.

The aircraft crashed short of the runway, broke apart and caught fire. Both pilots are dead and a Bangladesh government list put the death toll at 49 on Tuesday.

At the time, there was a light tailwind component of six to seven knots.

The 17-year-old Bombardier operated by US-Bangla Airlines was following a Boeing 737-800 of Jet Airways (a flight from Mumbai) that landed about three minutes ahead of the Bangladeshi aircraft on runway 02, according to JACDEC.

On Monday, Kathmandu airport officials said they had asked the pilots if they faced a problem after the aircraft changed course in the final descent, but the pilots said they were not, according to a Reuters report.

The plane was then seen circling twice in a northeast direction, Reuters reported citing Raj Kumar Chettri, the airport's general manager. Traffic controllers again asked the pilot if things were OK, and he replied, "Yes".

The tower then told the pilot his alignment was not correct, but received no reply, Chettri added.

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