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Agni Dornier down near Kathmandu

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Agni Dornier down near Kathmandu

Old 27th Aug 2010, 00:44
  #21 (permalink)  
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This from Nepali Times

Hotel Echo’s last minutes

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010
............................................................ ......................................................

A file photo taken in 2008 at Lukla airport of 'Hotel Echo', the Agni Air Dornier 228 that crashed on Tuesday morning.

Capt Lucky Shah was an upbeat person, cheerful and popular with his colleagues. He was regarded by peers as a confident pilot: he had over 30 years of experience flying in Nepal and India. The son of a senior pilot for Nepal Army, he was no daredevil.
On Tuesday morning, word came that Lukla had good visibility for the first time in a week. Domestic airlines serving the gateway to Mt Everest all scrambled to get their planes in the air. There was a huge backlog of passengers and cargo at both Kathmandu and Lukla as the Khumbu geared up for the autumn trekking season.
The trouble was that it was raining heavily over central Nepal and the Kathmandu Valley itself was overcast with low clouds. Capt Shah, with co-pilot Sophia Singh, was the first off the domestic apron with a Buddha Air Beech 1900D that was also taxiing out for a Mt Everest sightseeing flight.
On board Agni Air’s German-built Dornier 228 with the call sign 9N-AHE (’Hotel Echo’), were 11 passengers. Five were Nepalis, four American, one British and one Japanese.
The plane took off, and made a standard instrument ‘Igris-1 Alpha’ departure, involving a climbing circle overhead, then heading north east. Despite the heavy rain and turbulence, the pilots must have been encouraged by Lukla reporting good visibility and high clouds. But 30 miles out and cruising at 12,500 ft, one of the generators on board packed up.
Capt Shah told Kathmandu air traffic control he was heading back, but didn’t at first tell them about the generator malfunction. As long as the engines are running, the plane can keep flying. But generators supply power to cockpit instruments, and Dorniers have a backup generator and also a standby battery pack.
Somewhere between the time that Capt Shah turned back and followed a 20-mile arc to intercept the approach to Kathmandu runway 02, the back-up generator also quit. With intermittent battery power, and steering only by compass, Capt Shah seems to have decided to head to Simra.
There are conflicting reports about whether he informed Kathmandu about his decision, or whether he told other Agni Air pilots on his company frequency that he had decided to make an emergency landing in Simra. Piecing together initial sketchy evidence, aviation sources say Capt Shah knew he would not be able to make the VOR-DME approach to Kathmandu without his distance measuring and directional equipment in the cockpit.
But even to land in Simra, he would first have to break through cloud in order to get some ground references. It appears that is what he was trying to do, descending steeply, trying to get visual with ground. The nature of the impact site near a school in Shikharpur of Makwanpur, a crater 10 metres in diameter, and the altitude of the crash (1,700ft), seem to corroborate this.
A lot of the details will have to come from the inquiry commission that has been set up by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) and questions will obviously be asked about the state of maintenance of aircraft in domestic operations. A Dornier is built with triple redundancies for most systems, and especially for onboard electrical supply.
Capt Shah, disoriented without instruments in a white-out, seemed to know as he dived to get below the clouds that this was his last chance to find an airport to land. His last words to his fellow Agni pilots over the radio were: “Bye bye.”
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Old 30th Aug 2010, 20:52
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Hopefully the facts will be revealed after the investigations, the question is can we expect a transparent result. Civil Aviation Authority of the country should clamp down on all those commercial outfit involved in cutting corners for financial gains & compromising safety. Unfortunately, this part of the world has one of the worst safety records. Let us pray aviation safety of the country may improve and precious lives be spared.
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Old 31st Aug 2010, 08:13
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News of this accident shocked me more than most, as I flew with Agni Air to Pokhara less than a week before. However, looking back on the flt, perhaps I shouldn't have been so surprised.

My return flt from Pokhara to Kathmandu was with Buddha Air, which seemed of similar standard, by which I mean poorly conducted. Both sectors were flown as VFR but happily penetrated cloud, albeit for brief periods while in the cruise and towards top of climb and on desc. Both sectors were flown at approx 12-13000'AMSL (advised by pilot PA) as I assume this is a standard Alt for the operation. The route seems to follow a lower valley region, which is relatively safe, but my qn is, why fly at alts where IMC is penetrated, clearly below grid or route safe (Himalayas visible just to the nth of track), when they could have flown VMC only a few thousand feet lower. Also, they simply conducted a standard straight desc into the Airfield - how did they know they would get visual? I assumed they were given met info from preceding flts, but this is hardly legal. Having had extensive experience in Highland flt ops, including IFR ops into KTM, I was less than impressed at the pointlessly risky methods used to conduct these flts, which I assume was motivated by efficiency.

A further qn must be raised as to why the Captain of the Dornier elected to penetrate IMC with a flt instrument failure. The R02 VOR appch is a difficult and demanding IAP and would be extremely hazardous with unreliable flt insts. Surely there was a break or hole in the cloud somewhere in the KTM valley that he could of used to make a VFR appch. Even if he was IMC at the time of the instrument failure (which he should never have been) then he could have climbed to the KTM MSA of ~12500' to the Sth, a much safer option than descending, and diverted to other lower lying airfields only short distances from KTM (Lucknow, Kolkata, Dhaka). He probably would have broken visual at some stage during diversion and then assessed if a return to KTM could have been achieved safely.

Flt in IMC cannot safely be conducted below MSA or enroute safe Alt (MOCA) - it's that simple! Mtn/highland flying like this, necessitates VFR procedures and cond's. No point blaming instrument failures for what is a human factor, rule violation issue.

Needless to say, the Nepalese authorities need to address the loose practises of their airlines if they want their tourism industry to survive. Sadly, going by road in Nepal is even more dangerous!
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Old 31st Aug 2010, 08:56
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" Sadly, going by road in Nepal is even more dangerous!"

So they will not take any serious action, maybe some gesticulations in order to appear as a responsible authority.
But aviation is the only rapid mean of transportation there, it can be improved with instrument procedures, IGS approaches like in switzerland but can Nepal afford this kind of costs....
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Old 31st Aug 2010, 09:05
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Yes, Nepal roads terrified me. When the steep drop was on my side the remains of trucks (and coaches / buses) that had gone over the edge were often all too visible. Overtaking approaching blind bends was the norm, and there was one spot where there were two large cracks in the road on a bend - clearly the crown was going to slip away in the next monsoon, hopefully without anything on it.

The one saving grace was that speeds were very low - 20mph was common.

I also saw the morning flight come and go at Humde, that struck me as perilous as well - a tiny aircraft threading it's way along the valley below Annapurna (over 8,000m) early in the morning when it was relatively still.
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Old 9th Sep 2010, 18:01
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Flying in Kathmandu valley with electrical failure/limited instruments and that too in inclement weather is a recipe for disaster.....and sadly that's what happened to Agni Air D-228.
I have flown into/out of Kathmandu with high-performance jet and even in good weather flying the VOR02 approach and IGRIS 1A/B departures demands precision flying leaving narrow margins for error.
I can only imagine what the pilots of the Dornier went through when the generators failed and they had to take decision to return to KTM in IMC with maybe only basic/backup instruments in heavy rain and overcast skies. Add to that the typical turbulence encountered during such weather inside the valley and the consequence is the fate of the the Dornier. No doubt the Captain tried to break the clouds to get some visual reference. Had he been able to do that he could've landed safely with his experience. But it clearly was not his day. The other option to climb to MEA and then divert to another airport is easier said than done. The climb performance of the little propliner, bad weather, limited instruments all these factors may have made him take the decision to land back at Kathmandu......we will never know.
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Old 15th Sep 2010, 17:23
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It's reported they had radio and transponder problems from the beginning of their flight, hinting the generator/s may have never come online and this went unnoticed. The Do-228 crew were instructed to make frequent position reports via relay message because of this. They were diverting to Simara when they crashed. If the witnesses who said they heard the aircraft circling overhead before impact are correct, it's possible the Capt. misread the AH when it toppled, and tried to catch it, which would invole nose pitching down and increasing AOB. This manoeuver would result in a high speed impact and a crater very much like what is shown.

It's sad to hear this accident isn't getting the attention it deserves in Nepal, the investigation team has been told to give it's final report within 60days, many pilots say it will be done well before then. Anywhere else in the world would get much more attention paid to it, safety measure implemented, and changes made with the goal of making flying safer. Take the crash in New Zealand a couple of weeks back, they are expecting the report to be ready in at least 1 year, maybe 2. It will be thorough, and changes made to to prevent further accidents, already they have reduced the max pax to 6... But in Nepal, nothing. After every crash, nothing. If a pilot makes a hard landing and bends the aircraft it's the undercarriage's fault for not being strong enough, thats the mentality circulating. Their already poor flying standards coupled with terrible attitudes towards learning CORRECT techniques is proof there will continue to be accidents here unecessarily...
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Old 24th Nov 2010, 11:26
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The investigation has found a cause. Does this ultimately boil down to pilot error, or is it more due to the operator?

Crash: Agni D228 at Bastipur on Aug 24th 2010, dual generator failure
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Old 24th Nov 2010, 19:29
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I'm a bit confused though.
Isn't the AH, for the most part, powered by suction? So as long as the engines are running then? Or is it different in bigger Aircraft?

Also the bit how he said "bye bye" over the company radio also concerned me.... sounds like he had given up.
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Old 24th Nov 2010, 22:35
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nope, in the do228 they are electrically powered
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Old 27th Nov 2010, 07:36
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I concur with those who approve of the publishing the names of the passengers on PPRune, and am at a loss to see why people are offended or embarrassed by it. It can only be a good thing for professional aviators to remember that breakdowns in air safety result in death to real people. I find it both sobering and honouring of the dead to read a list of those lost. I hope I never reach a stage where aviation fatalaties are merely a number - every person lost is a tragedy for the individual and a personal heartbreak to countless families and friends. I commend the publishing of lists like this, and it makes me more determined than ever to provide a safe operation in my own sphere of influence. By depersonalising aviation accidents we run the risk of losing the true measure of the responsibility we carry.
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