A Turkish Airlines plane carrying 224 passengers had to be evacuated after it missed the runway on landing at Kathmandu airport early today (Wednesday) and skidded onto nearby grassland.
Aviation officials said no one on board was injured, although one witness described how terrified passengers leapt from their seats as the cabin filled with smoke after the plane skidded to a halt.
The airport has now been closed except to helicopters, spokesman Purna Prasad Chudal said, adding that visibility was reasonable despite fog earlier in the day.
Chudal said the pilot overshot the runway during an initial attempt to land, before making a second try that sent the plane skidding off the tarmac.
“As the plane approached, it somehow missed the runway and ended up in the grassland area,” said the airport’s general manager Birendra Prasad Shrestha.
“All 224 passengers have been evacuated, no injuries, everyone is safe,” Shrestha told AFP.
Photographs on social media showed the jet with its nose to the ground, with local newspaper reports saying its landing gear appeared to have collapsed.
Dikesh Malhotra, who was returning from a business trip, said the impact of the landing caused bags to fall on terrified passengers, who clutched their seats, anxiously waiting for the plane to stop moving.
“We could feel the tyres skid… I could see an air hostess from my seat, she had tears in her eyes,” Malhotra, 28, told AFP.
When the plane stopped, smoke filled the cabin, making it difficult to breathe, he said.
“Everyone got up and started shouting to open the door… finally they announced evacuation… we were so relieved,” he said.
Airport spokesman Chudal said officials would launch an investigation into the crash and question the pilot.
“The plane had permission to land and while conditions were foggy earlier, visibility was ok,” Chudal told AFP.
“We are not sure how this happened.”
The Himalayan nation is home to some of the world’s most remote and tricky runways, flanked by snow-capped peaks and terrain that poses a challenge even for accomplished pilots.
A string of crashes as well as the European Union’s decision to blacklist all Nepalese airlines prompted government officials last year to announce plans to install new radar and weather monitoring systems which would provide real-time updates.
In the most recent accident last February, a Nepal Airlines plane slammed into a hillside in the country’s western region during heavy rain, killing all 18 people on board.