The entrance to the Everest region is at Lukla Airport, one of the most hazardous airports in the world. This little airport in Lukla, Nepal, also goes by the name Tenzing Hillary Airport. Though it is small in size, up to 50 planes might take off and land here each day during the peak Everest-climbing season.
Alternative routes to get to Lukla include several days of hiking. In order to shorten the time, trekkers typically fly to Lukla and start their journey from there. The historic airport in Lukla is distinctive because local villagers actively contributed to its construction rather than the Nepalese government.
Sir Edmund Hillary, who first ascended Mount Everest alongside Tenzing Sherpa, though it took a long time to get to the trailhead. In actuality, the local villagers’ active involvement and effort made it all possible for an airport to be built there.
Facts about Lukla airport
- In 2008, Lukla Airport was renamed Tenzing Hillary Airport in honor of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the first climbers to successfully summit Mount Everest.
- In addition to having a small runway, Lukla is one of the world’s most hazardous airports due to its altitude and geographic position.
- The only way to get to Lukla from Kathmandu before the airport’s construction was to drive to Jiri and then climb for around five days to reach Lukla.
- The short runway at Lukla Airport is 20 meters (65 feet) wide and 527 meters (1,729 feet) long overall. This makes it challenging for airplanes to land and take off.
- The small runway, which is essential for passage, is used by pedestrians to cross through either side of the runway.
- Sir Edmund Hillary deserves the credit for creating Lukla Airport, not the Nepali government.
- The airport is where it is today because the local farmers refused to give up their flat farmlands. For $2,650, Edmund Hillary paid the local Sherpas to give him the property where the current airport is located.
- Lukla Airport was established in 1964, but it took until 1971 for operations to begin. Black-top pavement didn’t start until 2001, too.
- The Lukla airstrip is bordered on one side by a huge mountain wall and on the other by a steep drop into a valley below.
- The Lukla airport uses radio communication for takeoffs and landings instead of an air navigation or radar system.
- Lukla Airport has been listed as the most hazardous airport in the world for more than 20 years by the History Channel’s Most Extreme Airports program.
- The weather at the airport in Lukla is erratic. There are situations when passengers must leave the aircraft just before takeoff.
Weather in Lukla
The unpredictability of the weather seems to be a challenge for Lukla airport. There are often cancellations of flights, mainly when the weather is poor. Additionally, Lukla Airport needs more cutting-edge technology like radar systems and flight navigation. Here, the weather can change drastically in a couple of minutes. Clouds can soon accumulate, drastically reducing visibility.
Due to the low air pressure, handling an airplane in an airport at an altitude like Luka poses risks. Evidently, planes from Kathmandu to Lukla only take off in the early morning hours when the sky is clear.
A number of accidents have occurred at Lukla Airport in the past as a result of the airport’s small runway, erratic weather patterns, and uneven landscape. Since there is no navigational technology, the pilots do the takeoff and landing visually. Because of the decrease in visibility, the airport frequently has to abruptly close according to the Visibility Flight Rules (VFR). The erratic weather and the thickening fog on the short runway increase the probability of crashing.
Finally, If you’re trekking to Everest base camp, it’s also a good idea to stop in Lukla for a day or two before starting your hikes. This will give you time to start your acclimatization process, and there are also some short walks you can take from the town. Although canceled flights and poor weather can provide a whole new meaning to the word stress, safety comes first in Lukla. So take a seat, unwind, and take in as much as you can.