Accidents happen. On March 11—the day before the US-Bangla aircraft crashed at the TIA killing 51 people, including 22 Nepali nationals—a Turkish plane had crashed in Iran; all 11 on board died. On the same day, a sightseeing helicopter crashed in New York (five dead). Even on the day of the US-Bangla crash at the TIA, another small private airplane had crashed in Chicago (no casualty).
But all aviation-related accidents have a cause. For a modern aircraft with all its safety equipment to crash, something, somewhere should be badly amiss. A commercial passenger jet, like the one that came down at the TIA on March 12, is particularly tailored to deal with any kind of on-air emergency.
From what has emerged about the TIA crash in the media thus far, a few things become instantly clear. There was a clear gap in communication between the air traffic controllers (ATCs) at the TIA and the US-Bangla pilots. It appears that the two pilots were confused about the exact approach of landing. This is surprising as the aircraft’s captain was said to be experienced in landing at the TIA. Perhaps he was tired and disoriented: reportedly, the Dhaka-Kathmandu flight was the captain’s fifth of the day.
The air traffic controllers, for their part, appeared incoherent and failed to give clear instructions to the aircraft on how to proceed with the landing. But, as our main story this week clarifies, the final decision on landing the plane and keeping the passengers safe was with the in-flight captain. He could have chosen to land from any direction he saw fit. Which brings us to the gist of the matter: the most tragic aspect of this accident is that it could have been averted.
To ensure that such accidents are not repeated, our ATCs need to be better trained to communicate clearly in English, the language of international aviation. The accident should also spur authorities to expedite the process of TIA’s expansion. It badly needs another runway. Or perhaps speeding up ongoing construction works on the two alternate international airports is the right way to go about it.
But it is as much a responsibility of international airlines to make sure that their pilots are in proper mental and physical shape to fly. It would be unjust to blame the ATCs alone.
Yes, accidents do happen. But a lot can be done to minimize the chances.
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