Kathmandu, March 2: All nine people on board a small plane in Nepal had a narrow escape today when their aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing at Kathmandu airport due to a bird-hit, a week after two deadly accidents highlighted the Himalayan nation's poor air safety record.
The 19-seater LET 410 aircraft had taken off from Kathmandu airport for Lukla, gateway to Mt Everest, when its right wing was hit by a bird, said officials at the Tribhuvan International Airport.
"A bird hit the right wing of the plane after the take-off. So the emergency landing was made and the crew members and all the passengers were evacuated," he said.
All the nine people including the crew on board were safe. The aircraft's wing was damaged and it will take a few days to repair it, the official said, adding that the aircraft has been inspected by engineers for the damage caused.
The incident comes just a week after two deadly plane accidents in Nepal higlighted its dismal air safety record even though air travel is hugely popular as there is only a limited road network in the country. Several areas, mainly in the mountains and hills, are accessible only on foot or by air.
Also, birds have often posed a safety concern for Kathmandu's airport located close to forested hills. On February 24, a Twin-Otter plane operated by Tara Air crashed in Myagdi district in western Nepal, killing all 23 people including two children and two foreigners.
Two days later, two pilots were killed and nine passengers were injured when a small passenger plane crash-landed in the country's hilly midwest.
Since 1949 - the year the first aircraft landed in Nepal - there have been more than 70 crashes involving planes and helicopters, in which more than 700 people have died. In 2012, child actor Taruni Sachdev and mother Geeta Sachdev were among 15 people killed when a dornier aircraft crashed close to the Jomson airport.
Taruni died in the Agni Air Flight CHT plane crash on her 14th birthday on May 14. In 2013, the European Union banned all Nepalese airlines from flying there. And in 2014, a Nepal Airlines plane crashed into the side of a snow-clad mountain in the country's west, killing 18 people.