Lukla: World`s most dangerous airport
Published: 11:31 PM, 17 September 2019
Flying on an airplane is a lifetime dream for everyone. Form our childhood; we cherished a dream of flying in the sky. Air transport is one of the safest and fastest modes of transport globally to reach any destination. But all of our destination’s location, weather, and circumstances are not congenial. Unfavorable destinations are a matter of concern for all before flying on an airplane.
There are some airports in the world where there isn’t a proper runway available in certain places. Even if you see the dangerous and short-run runways of the airport from a distance, it weakens the strong nerve power of yours. There are lots of dangerous airports in the world to land. The list of such airport is very long. If we are talking about the world’s most dangerous airport, the name of Lukla Airport of Nepal will come first.
The Lukla airport is the main air gateway of the Mount Everest. Lukla is a small town at the foot of Mount Everest has one of the most dangerous airports in the world. It is the infamous Airport, the gateway to Everest and without any doubt, the extremely small and busy airport. The name of Lukla will come first when you searched the ‘most dangerous airports in the world’ on Google.
In January 2008, the airport was renamed ‘Tenzing-Hillary Airport’ in honor of Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, the first persons to reach the summit of Mount Everest and also to mark their efforts in the construction of this airport.
Lukla Airport is at 2,845m above from sea level in eastern Nepal. The big concern for pilots landing at Lukla is the airport runway which is extremely short at just 1,729 feet long. Runways at many of the world's international airports are more than 10,000 feet long. The short runway of the airport makes is more dangerous. This airport does not have any advanced traffic control system. Not enough light also. There is a small range of electric lamps. This is called the most dangerous 'airport landing' because the planes have to fly over Mount Everest, one of the highest destinations in the world to reach the airport.
History of Lukla Airport
Lukla airport turned into 50 years old in 2014. Its construction began in 1964 with the support of the Himalayan Trust Fund Edmund Hillary. This Fund has been actively engaged in the construction of schools and medical institutions in the region and the airport was originally intended for the delivery of goods associated with this activity.
After all, before the advent of the runway in Lukla, to get here from Kathmandu took about 3 weeks. A significant part of the way we had to go on foot and goods were transported by porters. Over time, the value of this airport has increased as the guarantor of the development of tourism in the Khumbu region.
Now the annual flow of tourists through to Lukla is about 25,000 people. This influx of tourists threatens the ecology of the National Park Sagarmatha, but on the other produces here a real economic revolution, allows the Sherpas and other residents of the region to raise their standard of living to unprecedented heights.
Because of the extremely short length of the runway in Lukla here can only work a special aircraft with short takeoff and landing like Canadian DHC-6 Twin Otter and German Dornier 228. They are easy to distinguish- Dornier longer nose, which hides the extra baggage compartment, and the Twin Otter is not hiding the chassis and has the supports under the wings. But those plane minibusses accommodating up to 20 people and cost $7 million apiece. The weight of such a plane is approximately 3.5 tons and capacity from 1.5 to 2 tons.
It carries 15-18 passengers in every flight having a little number of goods with the passengers. In addition, every year Nepal airlines are tightening standards for the passage of Luggage.
Multiform Weather in Lukla
Even under normal weather, Lukla airport takes the aircraft only in the interval from 6:30 until 15:30. If the weather worsens, the Lukla airport stops to take flight regardless of the time of day. This pause can last from a few hours, then weeks. In such situations lodges are full, prices are rising, people are nervous and storming the offices of the airlines to something to find out.
At that time, the weather sites are becoming the most popular entertainment. The beauty of the situation is that even if the weather will get better, in order to remove all gathered in Lukla people may need a few days. But the tourists are always in a hurry to go back and join their daily life.
If the planes don't fly, but you really need to get out, you can use one of two alternative options. The first is the helicopter. Helicopters fly in almost any weather. The price is about $500. After returning to Kathmandu you will be able to manage anything. Another option is to flee on foot in some other village and find the transport.
Recent Accidents in Lukla Airport
As Lukla is considered the world’s most dangerous airport then the news of accidents in Lukla is very common. The pilots have to face lots of problems in times of landing planes in that airport. Most of the time they can handle the situation but it’s not constant all the time. Here are some accidents that took place in Lukla airport at different times.
- On 30 June 2005, a Gorkha Airlines Dornier Do 228 skidded off the runway while attempting to land. The nine passengers and three crew suffered minor injuries. The aircraft was reportedly withdrawn from use and written off after the accident.
- On 8 October 2008, Yeti Airlines Flight 103, a DHC-6 Twin Otter, crashed on final approach and caught fire, killing eighteen passengers and crew. The aircraft's captain was the only survivor.
- On 25 August 2010, Agni Air Flight 101 crashed at Shikharpur while returning to Kathmandu after bad weather had prevented it from reaching Lukla. All eleven passengers and three crew perished.
- On 12 October 2010, a Sita Air Dornier Do 228 lost braking control and impacted the wall-end of the runway during landing. All passengers and crew on board survived without injuries and the aircraft received damage to its nose. The aircraft nose is covered in black and still remains at Lukla during the author’s visit.
- On 28 May 2017, a senior pilot and the co-pilot were killed when the aircraft 9N-AKY crashed while landing in foggy weather.
Risk is everywhere in our daily life. But it is not that dangerous at all, it's adventurous. It is true that the runway and its location add up to the extremity of the airport but not to the point of skipping the flight if you are heading to Everest Base Camp or Gokyo Ri.
Yes, there have been several accidents, and the prime reason was bad weather. The attempt to land in bad weather always resulted in fatal crashes. And in case of good weather, the flight will be thrilling and enthralling enough with spectacular views of mountains and variegated landscapes of the Himalayas.