The US-Bangla Airlines plane, with 67 passengers and four crew on board, was arriving from Dhaka when it crashed into a football field near Kathmandu airport on Monday.

Rescue workers survey the wreckage of the plane which crashed attempting to land at Kathmandu airport, Nepal, March 12, 2018.
Rescue workers survey the wreckage of the plane which crashed attempting to land at Kathmandu airport, Nepal, March 12, 2018. ( Reuters )

A Bangladeshi airliner crashed on Monday after making an unexpected turn in cloudy weather as it came in to land at the airport in Nepal's capital, killing at least 49 people, officials said.

There were 71 people on board the US-Bangla Airlines plane arriving from Dhaka when it clipped the fence at Kathmandu and burst into flames, said Raj Kumar Chettri, the general manager of the hill-ringed airport.

Those aboard included 33 Nepali passengers, with 32 from Bangladesh, one from China and one from the Maldives.

"All of a sudden the plane shook violently and there was a loud bang," one of the survivors, Basanta Bohora, told the Kathmandu Post daily. "I was seated near a window and was able to break out of the window."

TRT World's Iolo ap Dafydd has more.

"We have recovered 50 dead bodies so far," said army spokesman Gokul Bhandari. Although several people had been rescued from the burning wreckage of the Bombardier Q400 series aircraft, nine people were still unaccounted for, he added.

Plane took wrong direction

Chettri said that moments after the plane received permission to land, the pilot said he wanted to go in a northern direction. Asked by the control tower if there was a problem, he replied in the negative.

The plane was then seen making two rounds in a northeast direction, Chettri said. Traffic controllers again asked the pilot if things were OK, and he replied, "Yes".

The tower then told the pilot his alignment was not correct, but there was no reply, Chettri added.

"The plane should have come from the right direction," Chettri said, adding that it hit the airport fence, touched the ground and then caught fire.

It was not immediately clear if the pilot had issued a "Mayday" call, or distress signal.

Many of the bodies that lay on the tarmac, covered with cloth, were charred, witnesses said. Thick plumes of smoke could be seen from the aircraft at the Tribhuvan International Airport.

The aircraft that went down on Monday was 17 years old, data from tracking website showed. It descended to an airport altitude of  1,341 metres (4,400 feet) and then climbed to 2,012 m (6,600 feet) before crashing about two minutes later, the website said.

The plane was a 17-year-old Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop, said Swedish-based aircraft flight information service Flightradar24 on its Twitter account.

It said Kathmandu's airport was closed due to the accident, and inbound flights were either turning back or being diverted elsewhere.

TRT World's Staci Bivens reports.

Notorious for air accidents 

Mountainous Nepal is notorious for air accidents and has suffered a number of air disasters in recent years, dealing a blow to its tourist industry.

Small aircraft often run into trouble at provincial airstrips.

Nepal's poor air safety record has been blamed largely on inadequate maintenance, inexperienced pilots and substandard management.

In early 2016, a Twin Otter turboprop aircraft slammed into a mountainside in Nepal, killing all 23 people on board.

Two days later, two pilots were killed when a small passenger plane crash-landed in the country's hilly midwest.

US-Bangla Airlines is a private carrier that launched in July 2014 with the motto "Fly Fast Fly Safe," according to its website.

The Dhaka-based airline made its first international flight in May 2016 to Kathmandu, and has since expanded with routes to South Asia, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

In 2015 one of its planes overshot the runway on landing at Saidpur in northwest Bangladesh. There were no reports of injuries.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies