Lukla Airport: Is it a dangerous airport?

  • May 25, 2021
  • Annushree
  • 3086

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Lukla airport, also known as Tenzing – Hillary Airport is a domestic airport situated in Lukla at altitude of 2,800 meters from the sea level. The IATA code of Lukla airport is LUA and the ICAO code is: VNLK. Lukla is a small town which is considered as a gateway of the Everest Region since Lukla is a only airport in the Everest region. It gained worldwide fame as it was rated the most dangerous airport in the world for more than 20 years by a program titled Most Extreme Airports, broadcast on The History Channel in 2010.

Is it really a dangerous airport?

Before we go to answer this question, please read this interesting history about the Lukla Airport!

History of Lukla Airport

Lukla Airport in 1977, Picture by Cliff Bancroft.Lukla Airport in 1977, Picture Credit: Cliff Bancroft.

 

The airport was built in 1964 under the supervision of Sir Edmund Hillary, the first people confirmed to have reached the summit of Mount Everest along with Tenzing Norge Sherpa. Sir Edmund Hillary intended to build the airport on flat farmlands but the local farmers did not want to give their land for the airport the airport was built at current place. Hilary purchased the land from local Sherpas for US$2,650 and involved them in building the facilities. It has been said that Hillary was unhappy with the runway's soil resistance, and that his solution was to buy local liquor for the Sherpas and ask them to perform a foot-stomping dance to flatten the land that served as the runway.

In January 2008, the airport was renamed the airport as Tenzing-Hillary airport in honor of Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary, the first Everest summiteer and their efforts in the construction of this airport.

Current Situation of Tenzing-Hillary Airport

The airport's paved asphalt runway is accessible only to helicopters and small, fixed-wing, short-takeoff-and-landing aircraft such as the De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter, Dornier 228, L-410 Turbolet and Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter. The runway is 527 m (1,729 ft) × 30 m (98 ft) with an 11.7% gradient. The airport's elevation is 9,334 ft (2,845 m).

Lukla airport is contained within a chain-link fence and for security is patrolled by the Nepali armed police or civil police around the clock.

There are daily flights between Lukla and Kathmandu during daylight hours in good weather. Although the flying distance is short, rain commonly occurs in Lukla while the sun is shining brightly in Kathmandu. The airport is being used for passenger flights and for transporting most of the building materials and cargo to Lukla and other towns and villages to the north of Lukla, as there is no road to this region.

Airlines Flying to Lukla – Kathmandu

Planes that operates daily fly to Lukla from Kathmandu

  • Tara Air
  • Goma (Summit) Air
  • Sita Air

Helicopter facilities to fly to Lukla from Kathmandu

  • Air Dynasty Heli Service
  • Prabhu Helicopter
  • Manang Air
  • Simrik Air
  • Heli Everest
  • Summit Helicopters
  • Altitude Air
  • Kailash Helicopter
  • Mountain Helicopters

Duration of Kathmandu Lukla Flight

Kathmandu Lukla scenic flight takes maximum 35 minutes by planes and maximum 45 minutes by Helicopters. Total flight distance is 138 km (Straight Line).

Fare of Kathmandu-Lukla Flight by airlines

Regular Airlines Fare:          US$ 180.00 per person

Cost for Indians:                  NRs. 14700.00 Per Person

Cost for Nepali:                    NRs. 5500.00 Per Person

If you are in group above 2 persons, you can get additional discount.

Note: If you would like to take a Helicopter Flight for Lukla please click here.

It takes 35 minutes of scenic flight from Kathmandu to reach Lukla via aircraft. Note- the landing at Lukla airport is thrilling. Simrik Airlines, Goma Airlines and Tara Airlines are the best operating domestic airline which schedules (Kathmandu – Lukla) and (Lukla-Kathmandu) flights on daily basis.

Where to Stay at Lukla?

Lukla is a typical Himalayan town in the Khumbu Region (Everest Region). Apart from the famous Lukla Airport, the town hosts many hotels and restaurants to serve the tourists. There are several hotels, resorts, guest houses, lodges to comfort your accommodation as per your budget and wish. Small shops, mini supermarkets are filled with trekking gears, foods and local products including yak chees and many more.

Apart from the best hospitality by local Sherpa, you can explore the amazing Sherpa culture and traditions as the Khumbu is home of Sherpa ethnic community. You can find Buddhist sculptures, Mani Walls, Stone Walls, and Prayer Flags everywhere in Lukla.

Is Lukla Airport Dangerous?

Lukla airport was rated the most dangerous airport by The History Channel in 2010. Actually the airport is built on steep incline of a hillside. The runway is just 450m long and 20m wide and the runway incline is a staggering 12%. It lies on a slot sector and weather plays another different role to operate the flights. Weather condition in the Himalayan areas cannot be predicted.

Do you find it dangerous? Actually Lukla airport is one of the busiest airports in Nepal. The airport hosts 60+ flights every day in the peak season so it will be difficult to manage the flights for airport staffs. Combined of major three facts, small airport, bad weather and rush in the airport narrate the Lukla airport as a dangerous airport. In fact, if we evaluate the history of fatality rate in Lukla airport it calculates 1 fatality every ten thousand per year.

But now, technology has been supporting us very well to keep our life safe and airline companies hold great safety records despite of having dangerous flight routes and treacherous runway in Lukla. They delay or cancel the flights if weather does not support well to operate the safe flights.

Flight to Lukla is a real adventure for everyone. You will get the best thrilling lifetime experience landing at Lukla.

NOTE: alternatively Shepherd Holidays advise you to go with helicopter fly to land in the Everest Region. Here are some packages for your perusal.

Is my Lukla Flight Safe?

Yes, airlines hold great safety records despite of having dangerous flight routes and treacherous runway in Lukla. They delay or cancel the flights if weather does not support well to operate the safe flights. They take the climatic factor in major account before departure. Unless the safety factor is 100% assured, they never depart, we (Airlines and Tour Operator) make sure that you and your flights are safe.

Kathmandu Lukla Flight Cancelation

As you know the climate of Himalayas, Kathmandu-Lukla or Lukla-Kathmandu flight may get delayed for one-two hours or even a day or two sometimes. We advise you to issue an early morning flight to avoid the delay or flight cancelation. Incase flight gets delayed or canceled you can go for sightseeing in Kathmandu. If you are returning back from Lukla, you can return back by helicopter if you are in rush to reach your home.