While investigators are still piecing together exactly what happened — the black box was recovered on Tuesday, airport officials told CNN — experts say conditions such as fickle weather patterns, low visibility and mountainous topography all contribute to Nepal’s reputation as a notoriously dangerous place to fly.
On this occasion in particular, poor weather is thought to have played a part, Binod B.K., an official from Nepal’s home ministry, told CNN. The weather forecast for Pokhara at the time, according to Nepal’s Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, was “generally cloudy with brief thundershowers.”
The Tara Air plane took off Sunday morning from the city of Pokhara, in central Nepal, and was about halfway into its 25 minute flight to the popular tourist destination of Jomsom when it lost contact with air control, Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said.
Bad weather, poor visibility and a loss of daylight all hampered the initial search and rescue operation by the Nepali military, but helicopters sent over the mountainous terrain helped locate debris from the presumed crash site on Monday and the first bodies were found. Photos and video released by the army show debris from the plane scattered on the ground.
On Tuesday, despite the ongoing bad weather, rescuers announced they had recovered all the bodies.
Nepal, a country of 29 million people, is home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Everest, and its beautiful rugged landscapes make it a popular tourist destination for trekkers.
But this terrain can be difficult to navigate from the air, particularly during bad weather, and things are made worse by the need to use small aircraft to access the more remote and mountainous parts of the country.
Aircraft with 19 seats or fewer are more likely to have accidents due to these challenges, the Civil Aviation Authority report said.
The capital of Kathmandu is Nepal’s primary transit hub, from where many of these small flights leave.
A lack of investment in ageing aircraft only adds to the flying risks.
While the country has in recent years made improvements in its safety standards, challenges still remain.
CNN’s Teele Rebane, Sugam Pokharel, and Elizabeth Yee contributed.