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Nepal Earthquake: Pakistan Air Force Crew Caught in Aftershock

A Pakistan Air Force aircraft full of aid destined for Nepal's earthquake victims were caught in a strong aftershock as they landed.
/ Source: NBC News

KATHMANDU, Nepal — Landing a plane laden with aid in earthquake-struck Nepal proved particularly hair-raising for a Pakistan Air Force crew on Tuesday who touched down right as an aftershock hit.

Ahmad Bilal, Pakistan Air Force Squadron Leader, said that "right in the middle" of an exchange with air traffic control while the plane taxied, the controller stopped talking.

"I thought my [comms were] out,” Bilal told NBC News minutes after landing his American-made Hercules aircraft at Kathmandu airport. “We were just rolling around. And then [the controller] comes back, 15 minutes later. He had run off because of the aftershocks."

Bilal successfully landed 40 tons of aid, 18 Pakistani engineers and two search-and-rescue dogs to find those caught up in Saturday’s devastating 7.8-magnitude quake. The crew then unloaded the aid as a tremor violently shook the flight.

"When we stopped and were unloading all the supplies, and I was warming things down in the instruments, I read around a 30 degree lurch to the left and then a 30 degree right. On a stationary aircraft that weighs 150,000 pounds,” technician Sanaullah Khan said. “Then the whole plane was lurched four feet forward. That's when, in the distance, a building collapsed and the dust raced towards us. It was like a sandstorm it came so fast.”

Seeing the devastation on the ground prompted the seven-man crew to give away the food and water they had brought with them to the earthquake victims.


— Wajahat S. Khan