Poor weather hampers a search operation for at least 22 people who are missing after a domestic flight bound for Jomsom from Pokhara lost contact soon after takeoff.

A search operation has been deployed to locate the missing aircraft, its crew and passengers.
A search operation has been deployed to locate the missing aircraft, its crew and passengers. (Reuters Archive)

A passenger plane has gone missing in Nepal with 22 people on board.

The Twin Otter aircraft took off on Sunday from the western town of Pokhara at 0410 GMT (9:55am local) but soon lost contact with air traffic control.

"A domestic flight bound for Jomsom from Pokhara has lost contact," Sudarshan Bartaula, spokesman for Tara Air said.

He said there were 19 passengers on board and three crew members.

Phanindra Mani Pokharel, a spokesman at the Ministry of Home Affairs, said two helicopters have been deployed for a search operation. But he said visibility was low.

"The bad weather is likely to hamper the search operation. The visibility is so poor that nothing can be seen," Pokharel said.

Jomsom is a popular trekking destination in the Himalayas about 20 minutes by plane from Pokhara, which lies west of Kathmandu.

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Poor air safety record

Nepal's aviation industry has boomed in recent years, flying tourists, trekkers and climbers as well as goods to remote corners where road access is limited.

But the impoverished Himalayan nation has a poor air safety record due to insufficient training and maintenance.

The European Union has banned all Nepali airlines from its airspace over safety concerns.

The country also has some of the world's most remote and tricky runways, flanked by snow-capped peaks with approaches that pose a challenge for even accomplished pilots.

This month Nepal's second international airport opened at Bhairahawa, aiming to give Buddhist pilgrims from across Asia access to the Buddha's birthplace at nearby Lumbini.

The $76 million project will ease pressure on the overburdened Kathmandu international airport.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies