How Dangerous is Lukla Airport

How Dangerous is Lukla Airport

Holding a reputation as one of the most dangerous airports in the world, flight to Lukla gives you a combination of amazing yet thrilling experiences. Every day about Lukla 30 to 40 aircraft land in Lukla during the peak season. Furthermore, the number of trekkers is equally high with a maximum of 30,000 trekkers who visit the area annually flying into Lukla. The airport is also popular as Tenzing Hillary Airport. Similarly, the airport is dangerous statistically but as a commercial airport, it is safe. The airport recorded the last accident in October 2008. Since then the aviation officials have become more careful on the flight conditions and regulations for aircraft improving passenger safety.

Despite this, the flight to Lukla can still be a nervous journey. The physical structure, the landscapes, the routes, and moreover the landing is what makes the airport thrilling. Also, the weather condition plays a vital role in the challenges that a flight and passenger have to face in this airport. The airport can operate properly and can do a proper take-off and landing just when the weather condition is stable. Or else, the flight can be delayed due to the instability in the weather.

General Information of Lukla Airport

Name: Tenzing Hillary Airport
Elevation: 2846 m /9337 feet
Year of start: September 1971
Providence/ District: 1/ Solukhumbu
Runway Dimension: 527 m x 20 m with 12% gradient
Named After: Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary
Modes of Communication: radio communication for landing and take off.
Time is taken from Tribhuvan International Airport: 40 minutes
Named in the year: 2008
Schedule Operating Airlines: Tara Air, Summit Air, Sita Air, Nepal Airlines
Schedule Connectivity: Kathmandu, Ramechhap, Phaplu

The Flight to Lukla Airport

Lukla airport is an extremely small and busy airport and is one of the world’s most dangerous airports. The flight to Lukla is one of the thrilling yet most exciting adventures in the world. You will be thrilled by the landscapes and amazed by the stunning view of the snow-capped peaks that seem very close to the window. Thousands of trekkers from all over the world have a dream of exploring the Nepalese Himalayas. So carrying the dream of exploring the majestic peaks, thousands of trekkers, climbers, and travelers from around the world wait anxiously at the Domestic terminal at Kathmandu’s sole airport (Tribhuvan International Airport).

With the dream of exploring the wonderful Himalayan region, passengers are checked in and flights operate after the towering signal. Likewise, taxiing to the end of the runway for take-off, the flight soon takes off from Kathmandu airport orienting eastbound for 30 minutes to Tenzing Hillary Airport. Leaving the Kathmandu valley, the flight presents an astonishing scenario of scenic mountains.

Leaving behind all the work, stress, and day-to-day busy life you walk towards the refreshing journey. Similarly, the flight presents the wonderful scenario of Langtang and the Rolwaling mountain range.

The 30 minutes flight will soon roost when the hill appears out of the blue when the pilot orients the flight towards it. Finally, the visible track appears where the flight will land in the next minute. The Runway has a sheer drop of 2000ft with a huge wall at the end. Soon, the flight lands to the sublime Lukla.

Weather at Lukla Airport

It is a fact that the weather to the high altitude is unpredictable. On the same day, the weather can change constantly with rain, wind, sun, and storm. However, the weather at Lukla Airport degenerates very quickly because of its high mountainous location. Also, the serviceability of the airport is based on the weather conditions around there. The flights to Lukla begin early from 6 in the morning as the climate, weather, and temperature around this time are stable than the remaining days. During the day the clouds start to build up. Within 40 minutes flights are navigated through high mountains and are conducted with Visual Flight Rules (VFR).

About Lukla Airport

To any adventure to the Everest region in Nepal, one needs to go through the adventurous yet thrilling flight to Lukla. The airport in Lukla is popular as Tenzing Hillary Airport. It is a domestic airport in the Khumbu region of Nepal. The airport is worldwide famous as the most dangerous airport in the world. Mostly, people who are willing to go for the Base camp trek or expedition to any Khumbu Himalayas have to pass through this airport. It is a popular and starting point for trekking and adventure to the Himalayan region in Nepal. Tenzing Hillary Airport in Lukla is restrained inside a chain-link fence and is guarded by the Nepali armed police or civil police around the clock.

There is a daily flight from Kathmandu to Lukla. The flight’s intake is mostly during the daytime. Lukla airport falls under one of the dangerous airports, the flight can run only during good weather. In case of bad weather conditions, the flight might get postponed. Although the flight takes only 30 minutes in total time, the weather condition in Lukla matters the most to take off the flight. The weather conditions in Lukla and Kathmandu differ as to when it’s sunny in Kathmandu, Lukla might be soaked in rain. So, before taking off the flight, the study of the weather is the most important. The factors that can delay the flight are high winds, cloud cover, and changing visibility.

In 1964, the airport was built under the direction of Sir Edmund Hillary, (1st person to climb Mt. Everest). Hillary was intending to build the airport on flat farmlands but because the local farmers were completely against the idea the airport was then built in the current location. Sir Edmund Hillary bought the land for US$2,650 from sherpas. Likewise, the airport got its name from Sir Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay Sherpa, the 1st person to summit the world’s highest peak, Mt. Everest. In the year 2008, the Airport was named “The Tenzing Hillary airport”.

Geography of Lukla Airport

Tenzing-Hillary (Lukla) Airport is situated at Khumbu Pasang Lampu-2 Rural Municipality of Solukhumbu District, Province No. 1. It is the gateway to Mount Everest, the world-famous tourist destination. The airport is situated at Solukhumbu District of Sagarmatha Zone. Lukla airport is the busiest STOL airport and is considered the major airport for earning foreign currency. The airport is also located inside the buffer zone of Sagarmatha National Park.

Pilots of Lukla Airport

This Tenzing Hillary Airport operates with experienced pilots only. Because of the most dangerous landing, pilots should have more than a year of experience to operate in Lukla airport. The airport only lands flights flown by experienced pilots, with at least 100 successful short-takeoff-and-landing (STOL) experiences. The pilots should have criteria of one year of STOL experience in Nepal along with the 10 flights into Lukla accompanied by a certified pilot.
With extremely short runways at just 1,729 feet long, it slopes uphill with a gradient of almost 12% to assist planes in slowing down in time. Therefore, the experienced pilot is the one who can operate safe flight to Lukla

Aircraft Types of Lukla Airport

The aircraft that operate in Lukla are helicopters and small fixed-wing propeller planes. Mountainous terrain surrounds Nepal’s Lukla airport and with very short Runways, most of the planes can’t have a proper landing here.

The airlines that functions here are:

  • Nepal Airlines
  • Sita Air
  • Summit Air
  • Tara Air
  • Charter: Phaplu

Alternative for Lukla Airport

The best alternative option for the airports if your flight Alternative is to wait for your flight to be rescheduled.
However, helicopters can be an alternative to regular flights to Lukla airport. Helicopters can fly in conditions where planes cannot operate. Therefore, helicopters can be another option as they can most often. In case of delayed flight, one can opt. for helicopter services. However, it can be a bit expensive, the pay ranges from $400 – $600 extra per person. Likewise, The price can vary and fluctuate within the rise of the demand. The price of a helicopter depends upon the number of seats taken. Generally, the cost depends anywhere between $2500USD – $3000USD. Holding the total capacity of 4-6 people, the cost can be split among the group that is flying (minimum of $400USD to a maximum of $3000USD per person)

Update on Lukla Flights

The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal issued the following updates regarding the flight to Lukla

  • Due to an increase in traffic congestion at Tribhuvan International Airport, there was an arrangement of operating all Lukla flights from Ramechhap airport in this summer season. Because of the high number of flights and passengers to Lukla, the Civil Aviation Authority came up with this idea.
  • Lukla is the busiest airport during the tourist season among STOL airfields operated from Kathmandu.

Should one be afraid of flying to Lukla?

Despite the flight being one of the dangerous journeys, one should not be afraid to fly to Lukla. There is a huge possibility of crashes, although it’s not common because of the continually changing weather and bad visibility. There is a huge difference in altitude between Kathmandu and Lukla as a result leading to change in the weather. The weather during the take-off from Kathmandu is not the same as that of Landing to Lukla.
Despite the airport containing various crashes history from the days of its opening in the year 1964 AD, the airport has faced 11 reported accidents. There are several cases of crashes and fires because of weather conditions. However, Lukla Airport Crash statistics show that most of the crashes are because of low visibility and constant changes in the weather. Therefore with experienced operators and proper analyses of the weather pattern, Lukla airport is safe to fly. Therefore, the accidents are not because of the carelessness of the airport regarding safety but because of the weather pattern in Lukla. So, Lukla Airport is safe to fly and hundreds of people make their way to Lukla each day.

Things to consider for Lukla flight

Before taking a take-off to Tenzing Hillary Airport in Lukla there are several things that one need to consider and they are:

  • The flights to Lukla are often delayed because of unforeseeable weather conditions, therefore, taking the 1st early flight is recommended. As the 1st flight is more likely to have better visibility with more consistent weather.
  • Getting a left-side seat can be a plus point for the stunning view of the mountain.
  • Anyone willing to fly to Lukla should drive for 4 hours to Ramechhap as during the peak season the flights to Lukla run from Ramechhap to reduce the traffic congestion at Tribhuvan International Airports.
  • The check-in time for the flight is 1 hour earlier than the flight time.
  • The baggage limit on the flight is only 15 kgs per passenger. so, if you have any excess weight it will cost USD 1 per kg.

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