Nepal Plane Crash: Audio Chatter Indicates Cockpit, ATC Confusion

“..sir, are we cleared to land?” are the last recorded words of the pilot.

2 min read

At least 49 people were killed on Monday, 12 March when a Bangladeshi airliner crashed in cloudy weather as it came in to land at the Nepalese capital's hill-ringed airport, officials said.

The chief executive officer of US-Bangla Airlines, Imran Asif, accused Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport’s air traffic control (ATC) for giving wrong signals.

But airport general manager Raj Kumar Chettri said the pilot disregarded their messages and came in from the wrong direction.

An audio recording between the pilot of the ill-fater US-Bangla Flight 211 and ATC was posted on YouTube on Monday night. Listening to the conversation indicates a possible confusion in the mind of the pilot about ‘02’ and ‘20’.


At the beginning of the audio, the ATC could be heard telling the pilot, “I say it again, do not proceed towards runway 20. Cleared to hold at your current position.”

However, later when the runway is vacated, the ATC gives a choice to the pilot of Bombardier Q400 aircraft of “either runway 02 or 20?” The pilot chooses 20, but this time, he misreads the wind direction.

Kathmandu ATC: “Okay runway 20, cleared to land. Wind is 270 degrees, six knots.”

Pilot: “260 copied, cleared to land.”

When the flight 211 is asked, “confirm you have the runway in sight?” the pilot at first replies “Negative,” but soon says “Affirmative” adding that he has the runway in sight and is “Cleared to land runway 02.”

The pilot chose to land at runway 02 despite earlier seeking permission for 20.

“..sir, are we cleared to land?” are the last recorded words of the pilot to which the ATC replies, “I say again..turn” with some yelling in the background.

The plane then reportedly clipped the fence at the Kathmandu airport and burst into flames with 71 people on board.

US-Bangla Airlines told The New York Times that the pilot was experienced, with 5,000 hours of flying, and that there had been no evidence of a mechanical failure.

Airline executive Mohammad Kamrul Islam further told the US daily that there might have been “some confusion” and a probe committee will look into it.

The accident was the latest to hit mountainous Nepal, which has a poor record of air safety. Small aircraft ply an extensive domestic network and often run into trouble at remote airstrips.

"So far 49 people are dead and 22 are undergoing treatment at different hospitals," Sanjiv Gautam, executive director of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), told reporters.

(With inputs from Reuters, The New York Times)

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