'Are we cleared to land?': Last conversation between ATC and US-Bangla pilot
US-Bangla Airlines flight BS211 crash: In the recording, posted by the air traffic monitoring website liveatc.net, the conversation veers repeatedly about whether the pilot should land on the airport's single runway from the south or the north.
The plane overshot its landing and swerved repeatedly before it crashed and burst into flames uncoiling huge, dark columns of smoke from the site of the accident.
The jet was carrying 67 passengers: 32 from Bangladesh, 33 from Nepal and one each from China and the Maldives, and four crewmembers onboard.
According to an airport official, the pilot of US-Bangla Airlines flight BS211 had approached airport's runway from the wrong direction. He did not follow the landing instructions from the traffic control tower, the official said.
"The airplane was not properly aligned with the runway. The tower repeatedly asked if the pilot was OK and the reply was 'yes," Raj Kumar Chetri, the airport's general manager, told the Associated Press.
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Also, a recording of the conversations between the pilot and air traffic controllers indicated confusion over which direction the plane should land.
In the recording, posted by the air traffic monitoring website liveatc.net, the conversation veers repeatedly about whether the pilot should land on the airport's single runway from the south or the north.
Just before landing the pilot asks "Are we cleared to land?"
Moments later, the controller comes back on, using a tone rarely heard in such conversations — perhaps even panic — and tells the pilot: "I say again, turn!"
Seconds later, the controller orders firetrucks onto the runway.
Furthermore, an audio recording was posted on YouTube on Monday night related to flight BS211. US-Bangla spokesman Kamrul Islam reportedly said that the recording seemed to be the last conversation between the pilot and the air traffic control tower.
According to Reuters, the chief executive officer of US-Bangla Airlines claimed that Kathmandu's air traffic control had sent wrong signals to the aircraft. However, airport general manager Raj Kumar Chettri said the pilot had disregarded the air traffic control's messages.
The pilot came in from the wrong direction, Chettri said.
The southern end of the runway is numbered "02" and the northern end "20". Airport officials said the numbers were quoted for a clear understanding of the particular approach.
"The pilot was given the clearance to approach for landing from 02, or the southern side. Instead, he approached from 20 or the northern side," an airport official said.
"He was asked by the ATC whether he could see the runway. He first said he could, then he said he couldn't, and then again said he could."
For airport workers, it was like a bomb went off and the twin-propeller plane was broken into several large pieces in a grassy field near the runway after the crash.
"It was flying so low I thought it was going to run into the mountains," said an eyewitness, who watched the crash from the terrace of her home office, told the AP. "All of a sudden there was a blast and then another blast."
One Nitin Keyal, who was at the airport to board a domestic flight, said: "It was flying very low". "Everyone just froze looking at it. You could tell it wasn't a normal landing." He saw the aircraft breaking apart and bursting into flames.
"For a few minutes, no one could believe what was happening. It was just terrible," he said.
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