Nepal blames pilot error for January crash that killed 72

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Pilot error caused the January plane crash in Nepal that killed all 72 on board, an official said Friday, after a months-long investigation of the country’s worst aviation disaster in three decades.

The Yeti Airlines service was flying from Kathmandu to Pokhara, a gateway for religious pilgrims and trekkers, when it crashed on descent.

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The ATR 72 with 68 passengers and four crew plummeted into a steep gorge, smashed into pieces and burst into flames as it approached its destination.

Six children and 15 foreigners were among those killed.

Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane, a member of the investigating commission, told AFP that the probe had concluded that the “wrong lever” was pulled in the cockpit.

“Technically, the plane was fine but it seems wrong human input caused it to stall and crash,” he said.

The report, submitted to the tourism ministry on Thursday, said that the most probable cause of the fatal crash was “inadvertent movement of both condition levers to the feathered position in flight.”

Shifting the propellers to the feathered position stops them from producing thrust, which the report said was responsible for the plane stalling and then crashing.

Social media footage from the crash showed the twin-propeller aircraft banking suddenly and sharply to the left as it neared Pokhara airport.

“Human factor issues such as high workload and stress that appears to have resulted in the misidentification and selection of the propellers,” the report said.

It also said the crew missed “the associated flight deck and engine indications that both propellers had been feathered.”

Nepal’s aviation industry has boomed in recent years, carrying goods and people between hard-to-reach areas, as well as ferrying foreign mountain climbers.

But the sector has been plagued by a number of deadly crashes owing to insufficient training and maintenance.

The European Union has banned all Nepali carriers from its airspace over safety concerns.

Nepal also has some of the world’s trickiest and most remote runways, flanked by snow-capped peaks with difficult approaches and capricious weather.

Its deadliest aviation accident was in 1992, when all 167 people on a Pakistan International Airlines jet were killed when it crashed on approach to Kathmandu.

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