Nepal | April 07, 2020

Probe into US-Bangla plane crash snail-paced

Rajan Pokhrel

Kathmandu, March 20

A government commission formed to investigate into the recent US-Bangla plane crash has wilfully wasted over a week after the mysterious crash, demonstrating an utter lack of seriousness and confidence.

According to aviation experts, the commission, which even managed to avoid a press conference about its schedule of actions earlier, is unknowingly powering rumour mills in Nepal and abroad with its inexplicable silence till date.

In contrast, within a day of the GermanWings A320 crash in the French Alps exactly two years ago and in face of massive public outcry, the BEA, French air crash investigation body, had decoded the cockpit voice recorder. Its unofficial transcript was in the public domain, clearing all doubts about the reason for the crash — wilful crash by the co-pilot, an expert said, adding, that the preliminary report of A320 crash was publicly available in little over a month.

The commission is doing nothing in this regard while a quick trip to the black box decoding facility to Singapore or even New Delhi along with a Bengali speaking aviator could have ended the intrigue surrounding the crash, he added.

Another expert shared that the commission chaired by a former director general at the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, with a ministry of civil aviation joint secretary, who also sits on the CAAN Board as member secretary, and technical experts chosen from a pool of aviation personnel under the regulatory oversight of the aviation regulator, does little to inspire confidence in this particular investigation that will have international ramifications. The findings of the probe will be contested by Bangladeshis and may be Chinese counterparts, too.

International Civil Aviation Organisation’s norms on aircraft accidents referred to as Annex 13 – allows the state of aircraft operator to participate in the investigation process apart from the aircraft and engine manufacturers.

According to a source at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, aviation expert from Bangladesh Capt Salahuddin M Rahmatullah is now in Kathmandu to inquire about progress in the investigation process. Earlier, Salahuddin himself offered his expertise to Nepali safety inspectors on flight operations for many years.

Interestingly, chair of the commission Yagya Prasad Gautam served as the member-secretary of the infamous Ghunsa crash of 2006 in which many distinguished personalities perished, when UML leader Pradip Gyawali was the minister serving. As reported in this daily earlier, accident investigation reports from Nepal are not deemed credible even within the Nepali aviation community, let alone abroad.

The members of the commission, however, refused to comment.

This is despite the fact that CAAN has at least three dozen air traffic controllers who have been trained in air crash investigation at training centres in Singapore and even France, but their current positions don’t require participating in evidence collection at crash site and analysis thereof  relevant to investigation, according to a CAAN official.

The Nepali delegation that visited Brussels earlier this year to discuss the European Union-Ban also had a hard time explaining its accident investigation capabilities as well as the implementation status of the past recommendations. The European Commission officials remained unimpressed, to say the least, a member of the delegation shared. “No wonder, Nepal’s case is not intended for EC hearing in June.”

A version of this article appears in print on March 21, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.

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