Crashed Nepal Sita Air plane 'may have been overloaded'

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Media caption,

Witnesses say the plane was already on fire when it crashed, although that has not been confirmed

A commission investigating the cause of an air crash that killed 19 people near Kathmandu airport in Nepal in September has concluded that it could have happened because it was overloaded.

Their report has recommended better weighing practices at airports.

The plane, operated by Sita Air, came down minutes after take-off from Kathmandu. It crashed into a river bank and caught fire.

Sixteen passengers and three crew were on board the twin-propeller Dornier.

Seven of those killed on the Dornier 228 were Britons, seven were Nepalese and five were Chinese.

It was a heading for the Everest region when it crashed shortly after take-off.

The commission's report said the aircraft's take-off weight was 5,914kg (13,000lb) - whereas the maximum take-off weight allowed for the flight was 5,836kg.

It said that the plane crashed because "the drag was greater than the power available", as a result of which the "aircraft decelerated in the critical phase of ascent lowering the required thrust".

It said the flight crew did not maintain the centreline of the runway while taking off because they were distracted by a bird.

The report recommended that all hand bags and checked baggage should clearly display tags showing their weight before they are loaded onto aircraft.

The crash drew international attention once again to Nepal's poor air safety record and was the second in 2012.

In May of that year 15 people died when an Agni Air plane carrying Indian pilgrims to a Hindu religious site in northern Nepal crashed at a high-altitude airport.

Since 1949 - the year the first aircraft landed in Nepal - there have been more than 70 different crashes involving planes and helicopters, in which more than 650 people have been killed.

Critics say that many passenger aircraft in Nepal are often poorly maintained.