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Is Lukla Airport Safe to Fly?

Lukla Airport known as Tenzing Hillary Airport is famous all over the world as the most dangerous airport in the world. But what makes it dangerous and should be afraid to fly to Lukla? Learn Lukla flight facts, figures and tips below:

General information:
Name: Tenzing Hillary Airport
Altitude: 2846 m / 9337 ft.
Year of launch: September 1971
Runway dimensions: 527 m x 20 m with 12% gradient

Flight to Lukla:

From early morning at the domestic terminal of Kathmandu’s only airport (Tribhuvan International Airport), trekkers and mountaineers from all over the world eagerly await what could be their most exciting flight yet. Passengers are checked in, luggage is weighed and the tower allows flights to proceed, the flight begins to taxi to the end of the runway for take-off. Currently there is no diversion from the flight and soon the flight will take off eastward from Kathmandu airport in 30 minutes. A few minutes after taking off from Kathmandu airport, the flight lands from Kathmandu valley and the Himalayas can be seen on the left side of the plane. Throughout the flight, you will be rewarded with scenic mountain views.

Your Everest journey officially begins with a scenic flight to Lukla. During the flight, the view of Langtang and Rolwaling mountains is fascinating. 30 minutes on a flight can be the longest 30 minutes of many people’s lives. Soon a mountain village appears out of the blue and as the pilot steers the flight, a track appears and you realize that the next minute is the runway for landing. The approach to the runway has a 2000 feet drop and a large wall at the end of the runway. The pilot carefully aligns the flight along the runway and soon the flight hits the tarmac of Lukla Airport. Now landed at Lukla airport.

About Lukla Airport:

Lukla Airport, also known as Tenzing Hillary Airport, is located in Lukla, Solukhumbu District, Nepal at an altitude of 2846 m/9337 ft above sea level. It is known as the gateway to the world famous tourist destination Everest region. This airport was built in 1971 with the help of Sir Edmund Hillary. Lukla Airport is the busiest STOL airport in Nepal. During the peak season there are an average of 30 flights per day.

Geography of Lukla Airport

Lukla Airport or Tenzing Hillary Airport is limited by the nature of the land surrounded by mountains. The runway is 527m/1729 feet long with a 12% gradient that slows the aircraft down for landing and speeds up the aircraft for takeoff. At the end of the runway during take-off there is a sheer drop of 2000 feet to the high terrain immediately after the end of the runway during landing. The airport has the capacity to park only 4 ships.

Lukla Airport Weather:

Although the service facilities of the airport are all seasonal, due to the high mountain location of Lukla airport, the weather deteriorates quickly. It is said that all flights to Lukla will start at 6 am after the clouds begin to clear in the afternoon. Since it takes about 35 minutes of flight time to navigate the high mountains from Kathmandu Airport, all flights are operated according to Visual Flight Rules (VFR).

Accident record:

Since the establishment of Lukla airport, more than 30 passengers and crew members have died in 11 Lukla flight accidents. Deadliest crash On 8 October 2008, a Yeti Airlines plane crashed on final stage, killing 18 passengers and crew. Due to bad weather and thick fog, the plane descended too low and crashed quickly on the runway. After this accident, the airport has taken additional measures to prevent such accidents. The most recent accident occurred on 14 April 2009, when a Summit Air Late L-140 Turbolet aircraft veered to the right of the runway during takeoff and collided with a parked helicopter. The accident killed the first officer on board and a police officer standing near the parked helicopter.

Pilots flying at Lukla Airport:

Due to the short runway, limited area of ​​the airport and 2,000 feet altitude on the approach to the runway, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal has set high standards for pilots flying to Lukla. Pilots must have completed at least 100 STOL missions, have more than one year of flying experience in the STOL region of Nepal and must have completed 10 flights in Lukla with a certified instructor pilot. The pilots who operate Lukla flights are very skilled

Type of aircraft:

Only STOL aircraft and helicopters can land at Lukla. Currently, 3 airlines are flying regularly and Nepal Airlines Corporation is also flying from time to time. Aircraft used in Lukla area include Twin Otter, Dornier, L-410 Turbolet and Pilatus Turbo Porter aircraft. Lukla Airport has the busiest helipad in Nepal for tourist flights, passenger flights and rescue flights. During the tourist season, a helicopter is kept ready for emergency work at Lukla Airport.

Alternative if you don’t want to fly to Lukla:

A drive to Jiri or Phaplu is possible for those who want to hike Mt. away from Lukla flight. From here you have to walk for 3-4 days to reach Lukla. The flight is only 30 minutes but if you want to avoid the flight, be prepared for a 12 hour drive and 3-4 days of walking to reach Lukla. Another option is to take a helicopter flight to Lukla. Helicopters are generally considered safer than airplanes because of their maneuverability and lower visibility requirements. You can charter a helicopter in Lukla which will cost USD 2500-USD 3000 per flight or join a flight on a shared basis depending on the number of passengers on the helicopter flight. A helicopter can carry 4-5 passengers at a time till Lukla.

Lukla Flight Update:

Nepal Civil Aviation Authority has instructed all airlines to operate Lukla flights from Ramechhap Airport instead of Kathmandu Airport till April 2019. This new change has been made to avoid traffic jams at Kathmandu Airport. Kathmandu Airport is the only international airport in Nepal and has only one runway, which is used by international and domestic flights. As there are more flights to Lukla, all flights from Ramechhap Airport to Lukla are in peak season (April-May and October-November). The flight from Ramechhap Airport is only 12 minutes long, and the possibility of flight cancellation due to bad weather is also less. It takes about 4 hours to reach Ramechhap from Kathmandu. However, if the number of flights is less, the airlines can also fly directly from Kathmandu.

So, Lukla should be afraid of flying:

During the season, there are an average of 30 flights here every day in which 400 to 500 tourists come. More than 30,000 trekkers and climbers enter the Everest region annually. The airport has adopted additional measures to prevent any accidents. Landing in bad weather is strictly prohibited. Approach lights have been installed on the runway of Lukla Airport. Compared to other airports, there are many accidents at Lukla Airport, but the ratio of accidents is very low, so it is considered very safe for flying. Pilots who have recently operated Lukla flights are considered excellent.

Tips for Lukla Flight:

  1. If you are flying from Kathmandu to Lukla then take left side seat for mountain view and right side seat for Lukla to Kathmandu flight.
  2.  In the busy season from April to May and from October to November, there are flights from Ramechhap Airport to Lukla to reduce the traffic jam at Kathmandu Airport. Be prepared for a 4 hour drive.
  3. Check with your travel company if you are flying from Ramechhap Airport or Kathmandu Airport.
  4. Check-in time is 1 hour before flight time, so if your flight is scheduled at 6:15, you should arrive at the airport by 5:15.
  5. The baggage limit on the flight is only 15 kg per passenger and any excess weight will cost USD 1 per kg.

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(1) Comment

  1. Ram Tamang

    AlpineTrav Treks & Expeditions is a high altitude adventure travel company in Kathmandu, Nepal founded by local experts with vast experience in Himalayan trekking tours and mountaineering.

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