World’s most dangerous place to fly? Nepal plane crash puts spotlight on country’s poor air safety record

Final moments of Yeti Airlines flight YT691

The crash occurred about 1.6km (1 mile) from the runway of the new China-built airport in the resort town of Pokhara. Flight YT691 was travelling from the capital Kathmandu – about a 27-minute journey – when its nose tilted down towards its left, before plummeting into a gorge. It was fair weather and there was no distress call from the cockpit. Black boxes recovered from the wreckage were sent to Singapore for analysis.

Plane crash site

Emergency workers used drones to scour the hillside where the Yeti Airlines flight went down. Ropes were used to pull bodies from the wreckage, parts of which were hanging over the edge of the Seti River gorge.

The plane was carrying 68 passengers, including 15 foreign nationals, as well as four crew members. The foreigners included five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, and one each from Ireland, Australia, Argentina and France.

The ATR 72-500

The plane that crashed was 15 years old. The ATR 72 aircraft has been used by several airlines around the world for short regional flights and is manufactured by a joint venture of Airbus and Italy’s Leonardo. Yeti Airlines has a fleet of six ATR 72-500 planes. This aircraft model has been involved in several deadly accidents. In 2018, an ATR 72 operated by Iran’s Aseman Airlines crashed in a foggy mountainous region, killing all 65 aboard.

While it’s still not confirmed what caused the crash, a Nepal media report in January said the pilots may have failed to fully deploy the aircraft’s wing flaps before landing, leading to a stall. Some aviation experts noted that a passenger’s video showed wing flaps on the left side extended to about 15 degrees, not 30 degrees.

Function of the flaps under normal circumstances

Flaps of flight YT691 before landing

Grim record

Nepal has suffered 42 fatal plane crashes since 1946, according to the Flight Safety Foundation’s Aviation Safety database. Before the January 15 Yeti Airlines crash, the last major air accident occurred on May 29, 2022, when all 22 people on board a Tara Air plane crashed in the mountainous Mustang district. In 2016, 23 people were killed when a plane from the same airline on the same route crashed after take-off.

When things go wrong

Take-off and landing are statistically more dangerous than other parts of flight. Research by Boeing shows that more than half of all fatal accidents happen in the last part of the journey.

Nepal air crashes since 1946

Investment in Nepal’s aviation sector

Nepal’s aviation industry has boomed in recent years, as more planes carried goods and people between hard-to-reach areas, including foreign tourists. But the aviation sector has been plagued by poor safety due to insufficient training and maintenance, as well as a lack of good equipment and facilities to handle the country’s 20 local carriers. Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said Pokhara International Airport’s instrument landing system would not be working until February 26 – eight weeks after the airport began operations on January 1.

Nepal air arrivals

Since 1960, Nepal has been part of the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), meaning it must comply with international conventions, regulations, standards and safety practices. But Nepal’s poor aviation record had hindered its attempts to meet international standards. The European Union has banned all Nepali airlines from its airspace over safety concerns.

EU Air Safety List

The EU Air Safety List contains two lists. One includes all airlines banned from operating in Europe because they don’t meet international safety standards. The other includes airlines that are restricted from operating under certain conditions in Europe.

Countries with airlines banned by the EU

Nepalese airlines banned by the EU

Air Dynasty Heli Service, Altitude Air, Buddha Air, Fishtail Air, Summit Air, Heli Everest, Himalaya Airlines, Kailash Helicopter Services, Makalu Air, Manang Air Pvt, Mountain Helicopters, Prabhu Helicopters, Nepal Airlines Corporation, Saurya Airlines, Shree Airlines, Simrik Air, Simrik Airlines, Sita Air, Tara Air and Yeti Airlines

Associate Creative Director Marcelo Duhalde
Edited by Andrew London
Additional web development Han Huang

Sources: Aviation Safety Network, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), The EU Air Safety List by the European Commission, The Kathmandu Post, Reuters, dpa, Associated Press, Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Civil Aviation of Nepal,

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