Why is Lukla Airport known as The World's most dangerous airport?
Tenzing-Hillary Airport, also known as Lukla airport is known globally as one of the most dangerous airports to land. What makes it so dangerous?
Lukla Airport is a domestic airport located in the town of Lukla, Khumbu Pasanglhamu in Nepal at an elevation of 9,334 ft and has a 1,729ft asphalt runway.
The airport is popular and sees many visitors as it is considered the starting point for treks towards Mount Everest Base Camp. On average around 800 people come to climb Mount Everest every year.
Daily flights are operated between Lukla and Kathmandu during the daytime in fair weather conditions. Small Turbo Prop aircraft ( Twin Otters, Dornier Do228.. etc ) and helicopters are mainly seen at the airport.
What makes the airport so dangerous is the high terrain at the end of the airport preventing aircraft from attempting a go-around in case of a missed approach.
The airport has no go-around procedure meaning that once the aircraft joins final for landing, they must be committed to landing. The thinner air at high altitudes also makes it difficult for engines to generate thrust. There are no radar or navigation systems available at the airport.
High winds, low cloud coverage, rain, and low visibility are common reasons that make it even harder to fly into the airport. Flights are often delayed as the airport is closed from time to time.
The airport is open throughout the year but due to low visibility, it is closed up to 50% of the time during the monsoon season with a cancellation of up to 50% of flights.
The airport was build in 1964 under Sir Edmund Hillary who originally intended to build the airport on flat farmlands. However, local farmers did not allow their lands to be taken so the airport was built at its current location.
Hillary bought the land from local Sherpas for USD 2,650.
Sir Edmund Hillary’s wife Louise Mary Rose and daughter Belinda were both killed in a plane crash near Kathmandu Airport in 1975.
Louise and Belinda were en route to the village of Phaphlu to join Hillary as he was helping to build a hospital when their plane crashed
Lukla Airport was renamed Tenzing-Hillary Airport in 2008 in his honor after he passed away.
Over the years 11 accidents/incidents have occurred in the airport claiming 50 lives. Most recently in 2019 a Summit Air Let L-410 Turbolet aircraft veered off the runway during takeoff and struck a helicopter. Three people were killed including the co-pilot of the plane.