The Tara airlines twin-engine aircraft was reportedly on a scheduled flight from the tourist town of Pokhara, about 200km northwest of capital Kathmandu to Jomsom, which is about 80km to the northwest.
The 43-year-old plane lost contact with airport authorities shortly after take off from Pokhara at 9.40am on Sunday morning, said plane-tracking data from flightradar24.com, cited by the Associated Press (AP).
The plane transmitted its last signal at 9.52am, according to the data.
“The aircraft was seen over the sky of Jomsom in Mustang district and then had diverted to Mt Dhaulagiri after which it hadn’t come into contact,” chief district officer Netra Prasad Sharma was quoted as saying by ANI.
The 22 people on board the missing Tara Air Twin Otter flight, with tail number 9N-AET, included four Indians and two Germans, reported AP, citing a police official who requested anonymity and was not authorised to speak to the media.
Planes on this route reportedly fly between mountains before landing in a valley. It has been raining in the region for the past few days.
Nepal is home to the world’s highest mountains and the route taken by the flight is popular among foreign hikers who trek on mountain trails.
Police official Ramesh Thapa said there is currently no information on the aircraft and a search is underway, reported the Associated Press.
Officials have reportedly deployed two private helicopters from Mustang and Pokhara to search for the missing plane.
Tara Air operates a fleet of six short takeoff and landing STOL aircrafts, comprising of four Twin Otter (DHC 6/300) and two Dornier (DO 228) aircrafts, according to the company’s website.
Its service is concentrated in the hills and mountains of the country from the far east to the far west, the company noted.
Local news reports said the plane is suspected to have crashed in the “Titi” area of Lete in the mountainous Mustang district, home to the pilgrimage site of the Muktinath temple.
“Locals from Titi have called and informed us that they have heard an unusual sound as if there was some bang. We are deploying a helicopter to the area for the search operation,” Ram Kumar Dani, a high-ranking police officer in the region, told ANI.
A Tara airlines Twin Otter plane flying the same route had crashed in 2016, killing all 23 aboard. The plane’s wreckage was found in a jungle.
Another aviation accident had occured two years later, in which a passenger plane from Bangladesh had crashed in Kathmandu in 2018, killing 49 of the 71 onboard.
Investigators believed the crash was caused by the pilot’s “emotional breakdown” from work-related stress, stated a draft report.