Lukla Airport, the gateway to Everest, lies in the mountainous region of Nepal at an altitude of 2845m/9334ft. above sea level. Officially, Lukla Airport was given the name Tenzing–Hillary Airport in 2008 A.D after the name of the first man to conquer the extremities of the Everest.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) code for the Lukla airport is LUA whereas the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) code is VNLK. Edmund Hillary built the airport in 1964 A.D. He encouraged local sherpas stroll up and down the airfield to flatten it rewarding them with local beer. Situated at the distance of 136.17km/84.61 miles from the capital city of Kathmandu, it is the busiest domestic airport with 50 flights per day on a busy day. There is a helipad located at a distance of 150m below the air traffic control tower. The airplanes use Runway 06 for takeoffs and Runway 24 for landings. Only small planes certified for short takeoffs and landings (STOL) can land on Lukla.
The Lukla Airport doesn’t have a radar, control tower or navigation. Expect for Aerodrome Flight Information Service (AFIS), aircraft aren’t provided with other landing aids despite the risks pilots have to take while landing on this airport. The navigation is done visually and only the most experienced pilots are given permission to land here. Due to poor visibility and foggy conditions during the afternoon and evening, most of the landings are done during the morning hour.
The length of the runway is only 527m/1729feet, width is only 30m/98ft and the inclination of the runway is staggering 12%. In the south of the runway, there is deep river valley and in the north of the runway there is mountain cliff. So, there is no any chance of go-around. Landing on Lukla is a high precision act. If you misjudge your landing there is high chance you will hit the hill side. When you are taking off, you are accelerating towards the valley and failure during takeoff means you will jump straight downhill. The weather condition is so unpredictable that it might start worsening while the airplane is already airborne and heading towards it.
Article By: Vidhan Ghimire