Every crash is a blot on aviation safety. However safe modern aviation has become, it is still plagued by two factors. The leading one is aircraft maintenance and the other is technical failure like the one that may have caused the worst aviation disaster in at least three decades in Nepal, leading to the loss of the lives of all passengers on board, including five Indians who were heading to the resort city with multiple adventure sports to offer.
Modern aviation may claim to have evolved so much as to have almost eliminated pilot error in highly advanced fly-by-wire aircraft that can virtually fly themselves. The Nepal crash involved a 15-year-old ATR turbo-prop aircraft, which may have evolved from the bullock carts of aviation of previous eras, but which are sorely needed in operating regional services like the one from Kathmandu to Pokhara, barely 30 minutes away.
Aviation has picked up a very good record in the last few years since the erratic behaviour of automated nose dives by the contentious Boeing Max aircraft, which too are back in the skies with a bang with issues resolved satisfactorily. One incident of a plane being shot down and another flown to the end of its tether by a crazed pilot had been regrettable additions to disasters in the sky, spoiling the overall safety record.
It is a pity that smaller aircraft must be operated. The Nepalese ATR seems, at first glance, to have run into an engine stalling issue on one side, leading to uncontrollable tilt that sent the aircraft careening into a gorge in which the river Seti flows, thus lessening the chances of any of the passengers of the ill-fated flight escaping the crash.
A probe will establish whether the cause was technical aircraft failure or pilot error, which cannot be ruled out in demanding flying conditions in Nepal with its mountainous terrain. The airport which is new is said to be an improvement on the old one from which an aircraft that took off in May 2022 crashed killing 22 passengers.