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Air Dynasty chopper crash raises air safety questions

By Our Reporter
The killing of seven high profile passengers, including Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Prasad Adhikari in a helicopter crash in Taplejung on February 27 has once again shown that Nepal’s sky is not safe.
Minister Adhikari, tourism entrepreneurs Ang Tshering Sherpa and high government officials were killed in an Air Dynasty helicopter crash in Taplejung, near Shisne Khola while they were returning to Kathamandu from the famous Pathivara shrine in Taplejung.
Under Secretary at the Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers Yubaraj Dahal, tourism entrepreneur, managing director of Yeti Airlines and chairman of Air Dynasty Ang Tshering Sherpa, Minister Adhikari’s bodyguard Arjun Ghimire, Deputy Director General of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) Birendra Shrestha, CAAN’s regional director Dhruba Das Bhochhibhoya and crew captain Prabhakar KC were killed in the crash.
The charred bodies of all the passengers and crew were brought to Kathmandu only next day as it took time to bring the recovered body to Taplejung airport because of bad weather.
Minister Adhikari was criminated on Friday in Pokhara with state honour. The government gave a public holiday to mourn his death.
The helicopter was flown to Tehrathum from the TIA at 8:30 am Wednesday and the Minister had no plan to visit the shrine before he left Kathmandu.
As Minister Adhikari unexpectedly reached the temple and met the accident while returning to Kathamndu, several questions have been raised as to who took him to the famous temple when the weather was bad and without informing the local administration.
A few people had argued that the accident could have been averted had Minister Adhikari returned to Kathmandu from Terhathum as his previous plan. Others said that the chopper was carrying passengers exceeding its capacity.
Lawmaker and CPN leader Yogesh Bhattarai raised a question as to why the chopper had carried seven when only five persons were allowed to travel in a chopper to Pathivara. Mahabir Pun also said that the Dynasty Air chopper used to carry only five passengers.
Of course, Minister Adhikari had gone to inspect a site selected to build an airport in Chuhandanda, Terhathum at the instruction of Prime Minister Oli. But it is not known and will be never known as to why he reached Pathivara when the weather was bad. Many suspected he flew to the shrine at the request of Sherpa or Under Secretary Dahal.
There is a popular belief that one has to be very careful while visiting Pathivara. No woman during their period and no man when his wife has period should not visit the shrine. Likewise, no one during the mourning period or when they or their close relatives have given birth to a baby should dare to visit the temple. Every year, a number of people get killed in lightning on way to temple or home, and the locals say they were killed because they were not following the above said rules. As such, a question can be raised whether anyone of the seven passengers had not abided by this practice.
Others said that the young pilot felt pressure to fly the chopper in bad weather because the owner of the chopper was with him, and both Minister Adhikari and owner Sherpa were in hurry to arrive in Kathmandu as both of them were flying to Europe next day.
Similarly, there are others who had asked why Minister Adhikari chose to fly in a private chopper instead of taking a chopper of Nepal Army, because army chopper are safer than the private ones as the army pilot tend to fly only in safe weather. It was evident from a recent case in which NA refuted to fly its chopper carrying President Bidya Devi Bhandari to Jhapa stating that the weather in Jhapa was bad. But Pilot KC flew when it was snowing and raining in Taplejung. And due to poor visibility the chopper hit a cliff two minutes after the take off killing all on board.
When the country has adopted federalism, it is not necessary for the federal minister to observe every development activity. Instead, ministers of the Province Government should be given such responsibility, which will not only save the money but also life of minister.
Above all, in Nepal most leaders and even pilots tend to see at the sky to take a stock of weather instead of looking at the official forecast. This could also be applied in the crash that killed one of the competent ministers of the Oli-led cabinet.

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