Lukla Airport is recognized as being one of the worlds most dangerous airports of all time. Sitting in the Himalayas at 9,000 feet, with a runway running uphill, pointing at a mountain side there are few factors to suggest that this is a normal place to land. Even the pilots that do land here have to go through vigorous training and pass exams to confirm they have the piloting skills to land here safely. Lukla is the landing point for those brave enough to take on Mount Everest. With a challenge such as that, the adventure is worth beginning the moment the wheels touch down. With an adventure such as an around the world tour, I simply couldn’t fly past this runway without visiting.
After setting the weight of my aircraft and checking there was enough fuel to reach Lukla I started FSX Simulator and was in my parked Beech Baron at 13:40. I didn’t want to have too much fuel on board as this would mean I would be heavy and most likely fast when landing at Lukla. The runway isn’t very long so wanted to be as light as possible for the landing. The weather was fantastic, without a cloud in the sky. Mid afternoon the weather usually arrives as Lukla making visibility an added difficulty. Seven minutes later and I was pushing back from my gate and taxied the short way to the start of the runway only having to avoid small airport vehicles. Even before I was in the air I could see snow capped peaks watching over the hills to the North in the distance.
I took off at 13:55 from a southern pointing runway before turning to fly east over Kathmandu and the surrounding hills. Reaching the first hills, I could see there was a large expanse of further hills to negotiate. The hills were not high enough to cause me a problem however I still followed my flight path which took me through most of the valleys. I wasn’t sure if it was the fact that I was flying in the valleys but I lost radio contact for a brief period and made sure to change to an emergency squawk code of 1200. This didn’t last for long though and 15 minutes later I was flying North directly towards the taller mountains.
A streak of white from a high altitude jet lingered above the mountains and as I saw the hills breaking my horizon line, I knew I needed to gain altitude myself. Lukla sits at slightly more than 9,000 feet so I was eager to reach 10,000 early so I didn’t have any last minute problems. I climbed at 500 feet per minute. As I climbed higher I could see the contrast in the flat plains to the South.
By 14:20 I had reached 9,000 and the approaching mountains were making me slightly nervous. Wanting some reassurance, I contacted Lukla on 122.9 to call in my landing intentions. “16 miles South to land on Runway 6.” I wasn’t even sure I knew where the runway was at this point so had my eyes checking the Sat Nav and scanning the view best I could. Nervousness now would have been an understatement.
There it was! On the right hand side of the valley, nestled behind a curve in the mountains. I remember thinking, “this couldn’t be the actual location. Could it?” I was prepared for a strange airport but hadn’t realized just how mental it would have been.
I was a little high to make a turn for final approach and I also wanted to take a better look at the runway, so I decided I would fly past and head further up the valley and would turn around at a wider spot. I think this was a luxury that most aircraft do not get when landing at Lukla. I believe that the Twin Otter D300 is most commonly used to land here and my own Beech Baron is much smaller. Upon reaching a fork in the valley over a village called Namche Bazar, I was able to complete a 180 degree turn and head back down the valley. This was also a good way to burn off a few extra pounds of fuel so I took a second fly-by as I passed the runway on my left this time. The lower terrain at this end of the valley made for an easier 180 degree turn before I committed myself to the landing.
Flaps down, Gear down and throttle hand at the ready I made sure I was flying as slow as possible whilst not falling out of the sky. This is a lot trickier than I had expected. The valley wind was blowing my plane sideways as I attempted to turn towards the runway. It seemed so strange to land towards a mountain and if I would be unable to stop in time there would be no other out come than to crash into the mountain side. Luckily, or due to the practice I have had at so many landings now, I was able to bring the small aircraft down with a heavy bump and had the breaks on hard which slowed me down just enough to turn into the parking section just before the final wall.
As I thought I could finally breathe that sigh of relief, it dawned on me that there would be no fuel pump here to fill up for my long flight to Dhaka which was to be my next destination. I had enough on board for a sight seeing flying to Everest and to get be back to Kathmandu. I would fill my tanks here again before the next long flight.
Whilst my Plane was parked at Lukla, I spent a lot of time on Google Earth and followed the foot path all the way from Lukla to the village of Namche Bazar. It was great to see inside some of the hostels and bars. Most of which were very simple buildings but accommodated many climbers and explorers. There was even a library and museum with many artifacts from previous expeditions. When virtually visiting Kilimanjaro I really wished I could visit and climb the summit myself. I didn’t feel the same way with Everest. Seeing how many bodies there are left on the mountain shows just how dangerous and what an undertaking it would be. Still, I was looking forward to a short flight North to take a closer look at the highest point on Earth.
Lukla Airport, Nepal – The Most Dangerous Airport in the World ?? – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y14LkCJd7-4
Flight To Lukla Airport – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKED_3FA7c4
Lukla Landing – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDfI4tbMUvs
Scary Lukla Landing – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkIcUpWuYxY
Landings and Take Offs from Lukla – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1FiEQu4MDw