Neelam Mathews, London
IHS Jane's Airport Review
05 March 2015
All flights to and from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, the only international airport in Nepal, remain cancelled following a runway excursion on 4 March involving an arriving Turkish Airlines A330.
Flight THY726 from Istanbul skidded off the shoulder of the runway and landed nose down in a grassy field in poor visibility.
There were no fatalities, but the aircraft nose gear collapsed, and there was damage to the fuselage and engine cowlings, as well as a burst tyre.
Indian agencies are assisting in the aircraft recovery mission, particularly the Indian Air Force (IAF) and national aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
Acting on a request from the Nepalese authorities, the IAF sent a C-130J Hercules with Air India's aircraft recovery kit to Kathmandu on 5 March, along with 11 Air India technical staff.
"The C-130J was chosen for the mission not only because of its load carrying capacity and range but also its capability to land on restricted surfaces," said an IAF spokesperson. "The usable runway length at Kathmandu had been reduced to only about 5,000 ft, which made it impossible for any commercial aircraft to land."
Most major airlines have invested in aircraft recovery kits, including gas cylinders, control panels, airbags, and cranes. Such equipment "is designed to ensure no further damage is caused to the aircraft during recovery", Ravi Ravindran, ex-DGCA flight operations inspector, noted to IHS Jane's . Airlines pay either a piecemeal charge per recovery operation, or a fixed membership fee.
When inflated, the airbags lift the nose gear with the aircraft undercarriage pinned and propped up. Boeing and Airbus each have a team of experts who advise airlines on how to prepare and execute an effective aircraft recovery. "More damage is likely to occur during recovery if the right procedure is not followed," added Ravindran.