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Insult Reportedly Frazzled Pilot Before Fatal Crash

Inquiry suggests he suffered a breakdown, distracted the pilot at the controls in Nepal
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2018 10:22 AM CDT
Nepalese rescuers work after a passenger plane crashed at the airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, on March 12, 2018.   (AP Photo/Niranjan Shreshta)

(Newser) – A former Bangladesh air force pilot was in the midst of an emotional breakdown when an airliner crashed in Nepal's capital in March, killing 51 people, according to a leaked copy of the draft investigation report. It says US-Bangla Airlines Captain Abid Sultan appeared to "suffer an emotional breakdown several times" during Flight BS211 from Dhaka, Bangladesh, after a female colleague "questioned his reputation as a good instructor." The report, citing communication between the cockpit and air traffic controllers, says Sultan seemed "emotionally disturbed," cried, and both talked and smoked continuously in the cockpit, leading to the "total disorientation" of first officer Prithula Rashid, who was at the controls for his first landing at Kathmandu's airport, per AFP.

The airport's single runway, with the Himalayas creating a wall to one side, is "one of the most challenging runways to land on in the world," reports the Independent, and investigators say Rashid wasn’t correctly aligned with the runway on his approach. The plane, flying too fast, slid off the runway and burst into flames, killing all but 20 people on board, including both pilots, reads the report. It further states Sultan reported that the plane's landing gear was down when it wasn't, reports the Kathmandu Post. Though a source at Nepal's tourism ministry confirmed the report's authenticity, an investigator tells the Daily Star the published information is incorrect. He adds an official report isn't due until December. (Read more plane crash stories.)

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