The plane was on its way from Pokhara to Jomsom, a popular tourist town in central Nepal. The Nepal Civil Aviation Authority said the plane took off at 9:55 am local time and lost contact with air control about 12 minutes into the flight. Journeys between the two cities usually take 20-25 minutes.
Authorities believe the cause of the accident was bad weather, according to Binod PK, an official at the Nepali Ministry of Home Affairs.
The ministry said two Germans, four Indians and 13 Nepalese were among the 22 missing. The nationalities of the two passengers are unknown.
Pokhara is located 80 miles west of the capital, Kathmandu.
An airline official told Reuters, asking not to be named, that the plane lost contact with the control tower five minutes before landing in Jomsom. Tara Air primarily operates Twin Otter turboprop aircraft. Flight tracker Flightradar24 said the missing plane made its maiden flight in April 1979.
The spokesman added that the Nepalese army has been recruited to assist in the search for the missing plane.
Officials told Reuters the cloudy weather was preventing search helicopters from flying to the area of the last known flight site. The country’s meteorological office said there had been a thick cover of clouds in Pokhara Jomsun district since morning. A search helicopter was forced to return to Jomsom due to the circumstances.
“Helicopters are ready to take off for search from Kathmandu, Pokhara and Jomsom as soon as the weather improves. Army and police search teams have left for the site,” the Nepal Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement.
Police official Prem Kumar Dhani said a ground-based search and rescue team was sent to the area near Mount Dhaulagiri, the world’s seventh highest peak at 26,795 feet (8,167 metres).
Nepal, home to eight of the 14 highest mountains in the world, including Mount Everest, has a record of air accidents. Its weather can change suddenly and the airstrips are usually in mountainous locations that are difficult to reach.