Lukla Airport still operates with poor communication system keeping flight safety at risk

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-SOLUKHUMBU

One of the most dangerous airports in the world, Tenzing-Hillary Airport, also known as Lukla Airport, in Solukhumbu district does not feature good communication network to deal with the approaching and departing traffic at the airport.

Various international organizations over the world have listed the alpine runway strip as the most dangerous due to its short length, geographical remoteness and the notoriously unpredictable weather.

According to a senior official at the airport, sometimes the communication system on the tower i.e. VHF and HF SSB does not work properly when the weather changes rapidly and wind component at the airport becomes vibrant.

However, the airport consists of ATS Message Handling System (AMHS) which is a standard aeronautical ground to ground communication system yet, now remains not working since long.

The Lukla airport entertains around a hundred flights per day following the parallel Helicopters operation during the peak tourist season when tourists flock to see the world’s highest peak Mt Everest.

The Air Traffic Controllers at the airport sometimes also need to relay the departing traffic information to Kathmandu Airport and also ask the inbound traffic for Lukla airport using the telephone or Mobiles Phones which is against the standard rules of operation.

The airport also does not have the necessary infrastructure to deal with the unpredictable alpine weather system. It may be surprising to note that the airport located at the gateway to Mt Everest does not have a weather forecasting instrument.

The geographical location of the airport forces pilots to land their aircraft with no alternatives once they enter into the valley.

The senior airport official stated that they have been sending repeated appeals to Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) for installation of proper instruments and resolving the issues but the response from the aviation regulator of the country is negative.

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