Nepal’s Dangerous Airport in Lukla — Not for the Soft-Hearted

The dangers of climbing the summit of Mount Everest are not hidden among adventurers. It is a well-known story that most trekkers experience multiple challenges even before reaching the base camp. Yet the thrill of reaching the peak of Mount Everest makes it all worth! The starting point for the Everest trekking route leads most trekkers to Nepal’s dangerous airport — the Lukla Airport.

Located 9,383 feet above sea level, landings at the Lukla Airport are quite challenging for pilots. The short runway, regular winds and mountainous terrain are only some of the obvious risks that the high-altitude airport puts forth for a flyer. Low air pressures at high-altitude airports heightens the risks of flying.

One end of the tiny runway is a wall and the other leads to a steep drop into the valley below. The Lukla runway slopes uphill with a gradient of nearly 12 percent to ease the slowing of planes. Due to the unpredictable weather, sudden mists, fogs, rainstorms and snows, flight cancellations are quite common at the airport. Since afternoons are mostly cloudy, flights are scheduled early mornings.

Due to the surroundings of Nepal’s dangerous airport, only small fixed-wing propeller planes and helicopters are allowed to land. For running these flights, qualified pilots who have completed at least 100 short-take-off-and-landing flights with minimum one-year experience in Nepal are hired. These standards have been set by the Civil Aviation Authority after paying due consideration to the dangers in the region.

For analysing the feasibility of a runway extension, a technical study is already underway. But even then the extension would be limited to 100 feet. Despite the challenges, Nepal’s dangerous airport is also the busiest one. Regular flights are often run by private companies, including Tara Air, Sita Air and Summit Air. If you are a hard-core enthusiast, you must consider visiting this airport at least once in your life.

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