KATHMANDU (AFP) - A plane with nine passengers on board was forced to make an emergency landing at Kathmandu airport on Wednesday (March 2), an aviation official said, a week after two deadly crashes highlighted Nepal's dismal air safety record.
The 19-seater plane was taking off for Lukla, known as the gateway to Mount Everest, when a bird struck its right wing, Kathmandu airport official Ranjan Bhattarai said.
"The Lukla-bound Goma Air plane made an emergency landing... within three to four minutes of takeoff, due to a bird hit," Bhattarai told AFP.
"No passengers were harmed," he said, adding that engineers were inspecting the grounded aircraft for signs of damage.
The incident comes a week after two deadly plane crashes in the impoverished Himalayan nation, whose air safety record is blamed largely on inadequate maintenance, inexperienced pilots and poor management.
A Twin Otter turboprop aircraft slammed into a mountainside in Nepal last Wednesday (Feb 24) killing all 23 people on board.
Two days later, two pilots were killed when a small passenger plane crash-landed in the country's hilly midwest.
Birds have traditionally posed a serious safety concern for Kathmandu's airport, which is located close to forested hills.
In 2012, a plane crashed shortly after taking off from the airport when it hit a bird, killing all 19 people on board.
An investigation concluded that the pilot panicked, causing the plane to crash.
Despite the risks, air travel is popular in Nepal, which has a limited road network. Many communities, particularly in the mountains and hills, are accessible only on foot or by air.
The European Union blacklisted all Nepal's airlines in 2013.