US-Bangla Airlines pilot had ‘emotional breakdown’ before deadly Nepal crash

Rescuers look for survivors of the US-Bangla Airlines flight which crashed while landing in Katmandu, killing 51 of the 71 people aboard, last March. (AP)
Updated 28 January 2019

US-Bangla Airlines pilot had ‘emotional breakdown’ before deadly Nepal crash

KATMANDU: The captain of a Bangladeshi airplane “seemed to have an emotional breakdown” before a deadly crash last March, Nepali investigators said in a final report on the Himalayan nation’s worst aviation disaster in 26 years.
They blamed the crew’s loss of situational awareness for the crash of the US-Bangla Airlines flight to the Nepali capital from Dhaka that caught fire on landing in Katmandu, killing 51 of the 71 people aboard.
“The pilot thought he could maneuver the aircraft and land. But he could not,” panel official Buddhisagar Lamichhane, said on Monday, referring to the captain.
The captain was under stress and “emotionally disturbed” because he felt that a female colleague who was not on board the fatal flight had questioned his reputation as a good instructor, Nepal’s Accident Investigation Commission said in the report.
“This, together with the failure on the part of both the crew to follow the standard operating procedure at the critical stage of the flight, contributed to the loss of situational awareness,” said the report, submitted late on Sunday.
This lack of awareness meant the crew did not realize the deviation of the aircraft, a Bombardier Inc. Q400 turboprop, from its intended path, which in turn meant they could not sight the runway, it added.
Having missed the runway, the crew was flying very low north of it in an incorrect position near hilly and mountainous terrain around the airport, it said.
“Finally, when the crew sighted the runway, they were very low and too close to (it) and not properly aligned,” added the report, saying the captain should have halted the landing and initiated a go-around.
The plane skidded off the runway on to surrounding grass, quickly catching fire. Both pilots were among those killed.
US-Bangla Airlines expects to make an official statement later on Monday, Chief Executive Imran Asif said.
The flight’s captain, aged 52, was released in 1993 from the Bangladeshi Air Force because he suffered from depression but was later declared fit to fly civilian aircraft, the report said, with recent medical reports mentioning no symptoms.
Citing the voice recorder and the eyewitness accounts of passengers, the report said the captain was smoking in the cockpit during the flight and “engaged in unnecessary, unprofessional and lengthy conversation even in the critical phase,” violating the norm of maintaining a sterile cockpit.
He shared the cockpit with a female first officer, 25, who had a total of just 390 hours of flying experience and had never previously landed at Katmandu as crew, the report said, contradicting a US-Bangla spokesman who last year said she had made landings there before.
Landing at Katmandu airport, which is surrounded by hills, is considered difficult. In 1992, all 167 on board a Pakistan International Airlines airplane were killed when it plowed into a hill as it tried to land.
On the US-Bangla flight, the disparity in experience and added authority of the captain probably deterred the first officer from being more assertive during significant phases such as the final approach and landing, the report said.
The report recommended that the airline emphasize proper crew resource management and set up a mechanism to monitor and assess the mental status of the crew regarding professional development, financial, personal and psychological issues.
Pilot mental health was spotlighted by a 2015 crash in Europe after a Germanwings first officer deliberately flew a jet into a mountainside.
Last year, the European Commission adopted new rules on the mental health of pilots, for the first time requiring airlines to do a psychological assessment before hiring them.


Knifeman kills three in suspected terror attack at French church in Nice

Updated 5 min 37 sec ago

Knifeman kills three in suspected terror attack at French church in Nice

  • Two victims died at the Basilica of Notre-Dame while a third person died of injuries
  • Macron called for churches around the country to be given added security

NICE: A man wielding a knife at a church in the French city of Nice killed three people, slitting the throat of at least one, and injured several others before being apprehended by police, officials said Thursday.
French anti-terror prosecutors have opened an inquiry into what the city’s Mayor Christian Estrosi called an “Islamo-fascist attack.”
“He (the attacker) kept repeating ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is Greater) even while under medication” after he was injured during his arrest, Estrosi told journalists at the scene.NIC

Video footage shows police entering the church in Nice where the attack is thought to have been carried out. (Twitter)

Two victims died at the Basilica of Notre-Dame, in the heart of the city on the Mediterranean coast, while a third person died of injuries after seeking refuge in a nearby bar, a police source told AFP.
“The situation is now under control,” police spokeswoman Florence Gavello said.
France has been on high alert for terror attacks since the January 2015 massacre at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. The trial of suspected accomplices in that attack is underway in Paris. 

 

There have been unconfirmed reports that at least one of the victims was decapitated. (Twitter)

In Nice in particular, painful memories remain fresh of the jihadist attack during the Bastille Day fireworks on July 14, 2016, when a man rammed his truck into a crowded promenade, killing 86 people.
It was part of a wave of attacks on French soil, often by so-called “lone wolf” assailants, which has killed more than 250 people since 2015.

The attacker was captured by police and taken to hospital. (Twitter)

The assault prompted lawmakers in parliament to hold a minute’s silence on Thursday, before Prime Minister Jean Castex and other ministers abruptly left for an emergency meeting with President Emmanuel Macron.
Estrosi, who said Macron would soon be arriving in Nice, called for churches around the country to be given added security or to be closed as a precaution.