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Nepal issues final report on Kathmandu crash that killed 51

By Clyde Hughes
Rescue teams work at the wreckage of a US-Bangla plane that crashed at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, on March 12, 2018. Photo by Narendra Shrestha/EPA-EFE
Rescue teams work at the wreckage of a US-Bangla plane that crashed at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, on March 12, 2018. Photo by Narendra Shrestha/EPA-EFE

Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Nepal's government has issued its final report on the crash of an airliner last year that killed 51 people, a conclusion that questioned the mental health of the pilots.

The 43-page report, submitted by the Nepali accident investigation commission to the Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari, said the US-Bangla flight caught fire when it landed in Kathmandu on March 12, 2018. It said one of the pilots seemed to have an emotional breakdown.

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The report said during the flight, Capt. Abid Sultan was obsessed with criticism he'd received from a female colleague about his competency, and that issue dominated cockpit conversation, which is against the airline's standard operating procedures.

"The effect of stress was evident with the fact that he was irritable, tensed, moody, and aggressive at various times," the report stated. "He also seemed to be fatigued and tired due to lack of sleep the previous night as well as due to the stress he was harboring."

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"The [pilot's] impulsive and inappropriate behavior, or concentration, incomplete task as not completing before landing checklist, mentioning all three green for landing gear down in spite of not actually all three being green, repeatedly asking for before landing checklist in an obsessive manner; all was due to excessive stress he was harboring," the report added.

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Investigators also said the pilot had ample opportunities to correct the approach but failed to.

The report recommended that pilots who've been grounded in the past for medical issues go through periodic physical and psychological examinations. The exams must take place before a banned pilot can renew his or her flying license.

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Sultan had been released from Bangladesh Air Force in 1993 because of depression. Nepal investigators said the past behavior should have been flagged.

The final report brought back concerns generated in the 2015 suicide crash of the Germanwings airliner that killed 150 people when it crashed into the French Alps. A 2016 report said co-pilot Andreas Lubitz had been recommended for psychiatric hospitalization two weeks before the crash.

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