Plane carrying 22 people goes missing in Nepal’s mountains

A small plane carrying 22 people on a popular tourist route went missing in the mountains of Nepal on Sunday, an official said.

The Tara Airlines plane, which was making a scheduled 15-minute flight to the mountain town of Jomsom, took off from the resort town of Pokhara, 200 kilometers east of Kathmandu. Shortly after takeoff, he lost contact with the airport tower.

Police officer Ramesh Thapa said there was no information about the turboprop Twin Otter plane and a search was underway.

There were six foreigners on board the plane, including four Indians and two Germans, said a police official, who was not authorized to speak to the media, on condition of anonymity.

It has rained in the area for the past few days, but flights have proceeded normally. Aircraft on that route fly between mountains before landing in a valley.

It is a popular route with foreign hikers trekking the mountain trails and also with Indian and Nepalese pilgrims visiting the revered Muktinath Temple.

According to flight tracking data from flightradar24.com, the 43-year-old aircraft took off from Pokhara at 04:10 GMT and broadcast its last signal at 04:22 GMT at an altitude of 3,900 meters.

A man looks at the Tara Air counter at a domestic airport after one of its planes went missing on Sunday while en route to Jomsom, in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters)

Flight-tracking website Flightradar24 said the missing De Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter aircraft with registration number 9N-AET made its maiden flight in April 1979.

In 2016, a Tara Airlines Twin Otter flying on the same route crashed after takeoff, killing all 23 people on board. In 2012, an Agni Air plane also flying from Pokhara to Jomsom crashed, killing 15 people. Six people survived. In 2014, a Nepal Airlines plane flying from Pokhara to Jumla crashed, killing all 18 on board.

In 2018, a US-Bangla passenger plane from Bangladesh crashed on landing in Kathmandu, killing 49 of 71 people on board.

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