Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thirteen Foreigners Among 19 Killed in Flight Viewing Mt. Everest

A Beechcraft 1900D, also known as a Hawker, crashed while attempting to land earlier today, while carrying passengers (including 13 foreigners) to view Mount Everest. Ten Indians, two Americans and one Japanese were among the victims. The turboprop belonging to Buddha Air was also carrying three Nepalese passengers and three crew members when it crashed near the village of Bisankunarayan, just a few kilometers south of the capital of Kathmandu.

COMMENT: The day was foggy and visibility was very low in the mountaious area in which the aircraft was flying. The two Americans were identified as Andrew Wade and Natalie Neilan, while the Japanese citizen was Toshinori Uejima. Their hometowns and other details were not immediately known.

The Beechcraft 1900D plane, also known as the Hawker, had taken the passengers to view Mount Everest and other peaks on a one-hour "mountain flight" and was returning to Kathmandu. The weather on Sunday morning was foggy and the visibility was poor around Kathmandu, according to a local meteorologist. The surrounding mountains were enveloped in fog and it was raining at the time of the crash.

Travelers should also realize that real-time, state-of-the-art weather reporting is not the same in developing countries as it is in developed countries. Additionally, travelers to DEVELOPING countries must realize that unlike air travel in the DEVELOPED world, the sophistication of ground navigation aids are much, much different in developing countries. Also, and in contrast to air travel in developed countries, where flights are often conducted under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), the majority of flights in developing countries often predominantly operate under Visual Flight Rules (VFR), which means pilots must reply only on what they can see.

Given the above considerations, air passengers should exercise extreme caution in getting aboard discretionary flights in developing countries where flying in bad weather often brings with it a very high risk of an accident. Although many foreign pilots regularly make bad choices in flying in bad weather, that does not mean that foreign air passengers are required to get aboard the aircraft. Scheduled and non-scheduled flights go down frequently in the developing world, so making a prudent choice is essential.

A final thought. In many cultures there is a strong fatalistic belief that the time of our death is pre-ordained and that regardless of choices we make, the outcome will be the same. I strongly disagree with this thinking, knowing that I have avoided calamity many times in my life, simply because I made a prudent choice after evaluating prevailing risks.

Those that perished on the flight described above might well be alive today if they had chosen to see Mt. Everest from the air on another occasion.

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