Kathmandu: Flights today resumed from Nepal's only international airport here as it reopened four days after a Turkish jet skidded off its runway and was removed successfully with the help of Indian Air Force technicians leaving nearly 50,000 travellers stranded. The Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) had remained closed for more than three days after a Turkish Airlines Airbus A-330 skidded off the runway and veered onto the grassy shoulder after losing balance during landing on Wednesday.
The four-day shutdown at the Tribhuvan International Airport leaving as many as 50,000 travellers in Nepal and outside stranded and affecting the upcoming tourist season, one of the main source of forex for the Himalayan nation. The first planes took off just before midnight as stranded passengers crowded the airport in hopes of boarding a flight.
The Turkish jet had blocked the single runway following the mishap on Wednesday and Indian Air Force technicians helped the local authorities in clearing it. With the resumption of TIA service, the national flag carrier, Nepal Airlines, took off its first flight to New Delhi and returned here from Delhi carrying 150 passengers, informed Nepal Civil Aviation Authority, Airport Office. Nearly 240 people on board the jet had a lucky escape when the plane missed the runway while landing in dense fog and skidded onto nearby grassland.
TIA spokesperson Purna Chudal said the airport will be kept open for 24 hours after the resumption of flight operations to ease the overflow of the stranded passengers. Indian Air Force sent 11 technical experts and a C-130J Super Hercules transport plane with an aircraft removal kit following requests by the Nepalese government to remove the Turkish jet, for resumption of international flights in and out of the country's capital.
Nepal's high altitude and tricky runways that often suffer from foggy conditions and poor visibility pose a challenge to even the most accomplished of pilots and had been blamed for a string of aircraft crashes in the past.
The European Union had banned all Nepal-based airlines in December 2013 from flying to the 28-nation bloc, citing poor safety standards followed by the airlines in Nepal. PTI