A small Nepalese private airlines plane with 22 people on board, including four Indians, has gone missing in the mountainous region of the Himalayan nation after it took off from the tourist city of Pokhara on Sunday morning, officials said.
The Twin Otter 9N-AET plane belonging to Tara Air, which took off at 10:15 am from Pokhara, lost contact with the tower 15 minutes after it flew, according to a spokesperson at the Tara Air.
There are four Indian nationals, two Germans and 13 Nepali passengers besides a three member Nepali crew, said Sudarshan Bartaula, spokesperson at the airlines.
The three member crew of the aircraft was led by captain Prabhakar Prasad Ghimire. The aircraft was scheduled to land at Jomsom Airport in the Western mountainous region at 10:15 am.
The aircraft lost contact with the tower from the sky above Ghorepani on the Pokhara-Jomsom air route, aviation sources said.
According to an air traffic controller at Jomsom Airport, they have an unconfirmed report about a loud noise in Ghasa of Jomsom.
It is suspected that the aircraft crashed in the Dhaulagiri area, My Republica newspaper quoted DSP Ram Kumar Dani of Mustang as saying.
Dani said that a helicopter had flown from Jomsom to search for the aircraft.
The Indian Embassy in Nepal stated that they were in touch with the families of the 4 missing Indians, and released a hotline number for those seeking more information.
Air travel is popular in the poor Himalayan country, but its mountainous terrain, poor regulation and a lack of investment in planes and infrastructure have led to large numbers of accidents over the years.
Because of an influx of tourists in recent years, the number of flights to the Himalayas has significantly increased. However, Nepal has a poor flight safely record.
Tara Air was formed in 2009 using aircraft from the Yeti Airlines fleet and is based at Tribhuvan International Airport, with a secondary hub at Nepalgunj Airport. The airline operates scheduled flights and air charter services with a fleet of STOL aircraft, previously provided by Yeti Airlines. Its operations focus on serving remote and mountainous airports and airstrips.
Forbes rated Tara Air as one of the "most unsafe airlines" in 2019 due to several significant incidents.
Multiple fatal accidents in 2010 and 2011 have not assisted this Nepalese based carrier’s rating which operates a fleet of eight aircraft in and out of the dangerous mountainous approaches in Nepal, reported Forbes.