Interesting Facts on Lukla Airport, the Most Dangerous Airport in the World
Located on the slope of Himalayan Mountains, Lukla is recognized as one of the most dangerous airports in the world. Here are some interesting facts about this airport.
History and general information
- Lukla is a small town in eastern Nepal right at the foot of the famous Mount Everest. Before the existence of an airport, Lukla can only be reached by road traveling from Kathmandu to Jiri and five day hiking from Jiri to Lukla through rugged hill.
- The Sherpas, a tribe living on the southern part of the Himalayan, were involved in the construction work of the airport. The Sherpas are internationally known for their expertise in guiding mountaineering expeditions on Himalaya Mountains.
- In 2008, Nepal government renamed the airport after Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the first two men ever to set foot on top of Mount Everest and who had initiated the construction of the airport in 1964. So the official name of the airport now is Tenzing-Hillary Airport.
- The air plane that takes off from and land at Lukla airport only go to and come from Kathmandu airport.
- Most people start their trek to climb Mount Everest from the city of Lukla. Trekking through Lukla is the most popular route today. That’s why this airport is very popular and is one of the busiest domestic airports in the world with over 50 flights a day. That’s also the main if not the only reason people fly to this airport.
The extremities of the airport
- The airport is situated in the Himalayas at 9000 feet above sea level. This high altitude often causes difficulty for the pilot to control landing speed of the plane.
- The runway is a short and sloppy asphalt strip. It is only 1,500 feet long and 65 feet wide with a gradient of 12% from north to south. Due to its size, it can only accommodate small airplane and helicopters.
- The topography of the place makes any go-around impossible. At the south, the runway is the end of an angled drop of about 2000 feet. This cliff is fenced off as a precautionary measure. At the northern end of the runway there is a huge mountain terrain. It leaves no room for error.
- The landing plane comes from the north to the south of the runway, so the plane will have go round the mountain and land on an uphill runway. Being uphill helps stop the aircraft before it hits the fence and falls into the steeply cliff. Pilot has to reserve propeller even before touch down. There is a possibility that a plane could fly too low due to a false visual perception. Any mistake in the approach procedure will result in either the plane crashing the mountain or falling into the cliff.
- The take-off plane starts from the south to the north of the runway, so the plane will go downhill. It has to gather enough speed before reaching the end of the runway. If the plane fails to go airborne it will drop and just hope that it gets enough power to get back up again.
- The runway is also used by pedestrians to go from one part of the town to the other. To warn the passers by, a loud siren would be activated when a plane is about to land.
- The weather is highly unpredictable and can suddenly change by minute. Fog, high wind and cloud are common. Low visibility often causes flight delay or non-operation of the airport.
- Tragically, Sir Hillary’s wife and one of his children died during a crash shortly after take off from Kathmandu in 1975.
- On 9 June 1991, a Royal Nepal Airlines Twin Otter had a crash landing due to bad weather. The accident killed all three crew and fourteen passengers.
- On 25 May 2001, a Yeti Airline Twin Otter, crashed into Lamjura Hill killing all three crew.
- On 8 October 2008, 18 passengers and crew were killed when another Yeti Airlines Twin Otter crash landed in foggy weather and caught fire. It took two hours to put off the fire. The only survivor was the pilot.
- On 25 August 2010, 11 passengers and three crew onboard Agni Air Flight 101 perished when their plane crashed at Shikharpur while it was leaving for Kathmandu.
After knowing all of the above facts, maybe you would reconsider to start trekking from Kathmandu and try to reach the peak of Mount Everest the old way, the “Tenzing-Hillary” Way.