The 80th Flight!

Flight number 80 would be the final flight of the original “Around the world in 80 flights” tour so this should be somewhat of a great achievement. However, due to the number of diversions and additional flights I have added to my own tour, despite reaching the 80th flight, I have not even reached my half way point.

Since leaving Edinburgh in the UK 3 years ago I have racked up over 54,000 Kilometres which works out at over 33,500 Miles! I have passed through 37 different countries whilst I have covered Europe and the length of Africa, all the way too Cape Town before continuing to The UAE and Middle East. I then covered the entire length of India or order to reach the Maldives Islands before returning North to the Himalayas and Mt. Everest. From the Himalayas I continued to Asia and across to Japan where I have now begun to double back on myself a little. This is simply so that I can loop further South as I make my way through the Pacific Islands and eventually reach Australia.

From my home in the UK, Australia will make my geographical half way point around the world. I feel that this should be celebrated more than the acknowledgement of my 80th flight. After all, I still have many more miles to go with many more countries to visit. Having significantly amended the original route I shall be completing a total of 203 flights before my wheels finally touch down in Edinburgh UK once more.

Whilst not mathematically nor geographically “half way,” I shall be considering my virtual arrival to the island of Hawaii to be the half way point of my Around The World Tour.
Hawaii to San Francisco is by far the longest flight I will have to negotiate during the tour and will need to heavily modify my tiny Beechcraft Baron 58 in order to make the huge distance but this is still some way off for flight number 120.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the entire time I have been completing this tour although I would love to hear from people who live in any of the places I have already, or am yet to visit. See below for the offical route map and for the full list of destinations I shall be visiting (virtually.)

OFFICIAL ROUTE MAP

Blue Pins = Offical 80 Flights Route
Red Pins = Addional Destinations Added By Me
Yellow Pins = Points Of Interest I Shall Not Land At.

Please continue to follow my virtual adventures around the world and leave comments to help me to make it that little bit more realistic.

Flight 78) Tokyo – Hiroshima

Tokyo was a fantastic city to learn about and is certainly on my list of destinations to visit first hand. The culture and technology seems so different from ours within the UK that every aspect of Tokyo life fills me with intrigue. I will be looking to travel to Tokyo for a short visit hopefully within the next couple of years but for now it is time to continue with this around the world tour. Having left Edinburgh and the UK 3 years ago on this virtual tour I have been travelling further and further East around the world. Now that I have quite literally reached the “Far East” I shall be back tracking slightly as I work my way South towards Australia and New Zealand before taking on the huge Pacific Ocean on my way to the USA.

This flight would always have been a sombre one as I would be flying over the city of Hiroshima. It would be impossible not to consider the same flight which took place 71 years ago by the Enola Gay air crew which dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan. I was keen to approach this destination in a positive light however as I wanted to know more about this city other than its infamous history.

Previously flying over Japan on my way to Tokyo from Seoul, I was very impressed with the level of detail within the simulator depicting the winding roads which snaked their way through mountains and hugged the shorelines around the island. I thought at the time that this would look extremely pretty at night time as the street lights would string across the landscape so I decided to take the flight from Tokyo to Hiroshima at night.

Sitting virtually in my Beechcraft Baron 58 at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport at 22:20 I listened to the light rain landing on the cockpit windows whilst I switched on the various components and set up my navigation for the flight. I actually felt rather cosy with the rain and the dashboard lighting although that may also be due to the fact that I was warm at home in front of my computer. I let the engines warm up for a few minutes before beginning my taxi route at 22:30.

The landing lights of multiple aircraft could be seen in the distance as they made their way ever closer to the runway before eventually landing. I actually had to wait in line for another 3 aircraft to take off infront of me before I took my turn on the runway. When I was given the take off clearence, I had to move pretty sharpish as there was already another plane on its final descent.

Tokyo was VERY bright below me as I flew over the city and I also passed many other planes in the sky. These were easy to spot due to the night time sky and lighting on the aircraft. There was a scattering of clouds sitting at roughly 7,000 feet which allowed me to see the snow covered peak of Mount Fuji in the distance. I took note of this as I did not want to fly too close in the darkness. Even so, I took the opportunity to fly a loop around the huge volcano before leaving this destination behind me.

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Further from Mount Fuji I passed many more smaller mountains with their own snow covered caps before flying over another large city “Nagoya.” This would be the last I got to see of the night lights of Japan for a while as by 00:23 the clouds had formed a thick blanket at 5,000 feet preventing me from seeing much of the ground at all. The darkness and blanket cloud made the next hour pass increadably slowly but I eventually made it to Hiroshima Airport for 01:21.

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I wanted to take a sight seeing flight over the city of Hiroshima during the day so decided to do this a couple of days later. There were several landmarks included in the software although the most recognisible had to be that of the Atomic Dome. One of the very few buildings which remained standing after the bomb had dropped. The reason that this building specifically remained standing was due to the fact that the bomb detonated directly above, marking the epicenter of the explosion.

Whilst it was re-assuring to see that Hiroshima is once again a thriving city it really was impossible to forget the horrific event which made this city so famous. I watched several documentaries about the fateful day and have to admit that my mind boggles as to how the threat of any country ever using a nuclear bomb could even be a possibility in todays society. I’m certainly a supporter of scrapping the UK’s Trident program and strongly believe that stockpiling of such weaponry is not only a waste of money and resources but also an unnecessary danger for future generations. If only mankind would learn from our own history.

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Hiroshima Today

Welcome to Hiroshima – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_1_ZQiGhcA
Hiroshima City – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_3awSTnoqs
WELCOME TO HIROSHIMA! Hiroshima Tour Pt. 1  – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgpCQQVmbvc
Hiroshima today, Japan tours 2016 (HD 1080p) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsD5IQb_Ruk
Japan Vlog – Hiroshima – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6A2HU-tw9o

Dome & Peace Garden
Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome 4K – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2V-tugvjUYQ
Hiroshima Memorial Museum and Peace Park | Virtual Tour – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yx3RdOyRfL0

Atomic Bombing
Hiroshima – 70 Years after the Bomb  – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlMh-uMf3go#t=294.372
The Day They Dropped The Bomb | War Documentary – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xp9cgm4Dkzg
1946 film shows how the atomic bomb destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2rEhYS46EA
Hiroshima: Why the Bomb was Dropped (1995) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-WnLNLe3sk

Flight 76) Beijing – Seoul

It was 12:30 by the time I had finished setting up the flight simulator software, loaded my plane and requested a fuel truck so I could fill my tanks again. It’s a good job virtual fuel is free! I’d dread to think how much it would cost in fuel to travel around the world with this many stops. Looking to my right I could only be thankful that I was not having to pay to fill the tanks of a Boeing 747.

With another clear sky without a cloud in sight, I was looking forward to this afternoon flight and was soon taking off from runway 36 by 12:50. I took another small detour to fly over Beijing and to get a last look at the Forbidden city before turning to a heading of 120 degrees to take me on a direct path to South Korea as I wanted to make this flight as short as possible. 2016-6-26_12-57-46-204By 13:45 I found myself flying over the coastline of China and the green shade of sea water below which continued far off to the horizon. I paused only the once to take a lap around a very small but pretty island. I meant to check what this island was called but was too busy to do so during the flight. 2016-6-26_16-0-2-185Once I had reached land once again I released that this would have been North Korea. With all the negative information provided by the news about North Korea I was pretty relieved to be in a simulator. Even so I decided to fly as low as possible, buzzing the tops of trees, hills, mountains and even the water of a lake. Eventually the rough terrain gave way to a very wide river which I followed for long enough that I was only 13 miles away from my destination airport of Seoul.

Seoul was a huge city. Much bigger than I had expected. Wanting to land quickly I saw what I could of the city from the air but did not fly any laps. By the time I landed it was 17:17 although this included the extra hour I had lost by crossing the time zone.

Another day I took a gentle flight over the city and found Incheon Airport just off the coast. This was a much larger airport which the simulator had re-produced in detail. I figured it would be nice to land here and refuel before the next leg of the world tour.

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25 Best Things To Do in Seoul, South Korea – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-zrjBpKGiI
Overnight in Seoul, 36 hours in the city  – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSKGDNzb4pc
Travel Vlog: Seoul, South Korea | HAUSOFCOLOR  – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Zd8UjpJmK4
Seoul Vacation Travel Video Guide – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzD5Lk5buVY

Whilst digitally exploring Seoul I learnt that Gangnam was a district within the city, now made known world wide through the PSY song Gangnam Style – Couldn’t leave out the music video now could I?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=GB&hl=en-GB&v=9bZkp7q19f0

Flight 75) Shanghai – Beijing

It had been a long time since my previous flight and I had enjoyed the time spent learning about Shanghai. I really hadn’t known what a huge city this place had become, although now it was time to leave the futuristic lights and skyline of Shanghai for Beijing. I included Beijing on the tour mainly so that I could see the Great Wall of China.

I started by checking the weight and fuel load of my small Beech Baron 58 and made sure I plotted a suitable route north. This didn’t take long and before long I was requesting taxi to runway clearence by 10:00. The rain and fog wasn’t very inviting but made for a rather reflective concrete surface around Shanghai Airport. Unfortunately my take off clearence was denied as the airport was operating IFR only due to the thick fog still in the air, so I created an alternative IFR route and was soon give the clearence I was looking for.

I had to “hold my position” many times during the taxi route to the runway as this really was a very busy airport with other aircraft landing and taking off regularly and many other planes maneuvering to and from their own gates. All of this movement made the radio buzz constantly.

Having almost lapped the main terminal building entirely I finally took to the skies at 10:25 and soon cleared the low clouds. I didn’t want to fly too high as I wanted to get a look at the infamous Shanghai skyline. As the flight sim FSX is a fair few years old now, it is clear to see the rapid expansion of this city as many of the key buildings now standing were not featured in the original software. Still the city looked wonderful with the cresent moon keeping watch.2016-5-29_10-36-15-758.jpg

Flying North-West from the city I passed over the Hung-Tse Lake and then straightend to due North for the majority of the flight. My next waypoint was 1 hour, 45 minutes away.
I flew lower and the speed of the land below gave the illusion I was travelling faster than at higher altitudes.

An hour later and I was approaching the coastline and could see hills and mountains in the distance both infront and from my left hand window. I flew lower once again to have some fun with the hilly terrain below but soon found myself surrounded by mountain fog. Passing over a few unknown cities and lakes with anouther hour and a half still to go until reaching Beijing, the weather finally cleared up.

I suffered with radio confusion between Beijing Center directing me to contact Tianjin Tower and visa versa. This bounced to and from for far too long until I was able call my landing intentions and touch down at 14:38 slightly off center. The few previous runaways I have landed on have belonged to very large international airports. I will look forward to visiting smaller landing strips in the future. I find these can be a little more challenging.
The Beech Baron was parked up by 14:45 and I was looking forward to seeing the sights of Beijing.

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Whilst here I really wanted to see the Great Wall of China which can be seen to the North of Beijing. Whilst I took a short flight around the area, I was unable to see the wall at all. Many maps show there to be many sections of the Great Wall. Maybe this just simply isn’t included in the standard FSX simulator software. This was rather disappointing. Nevermind.

Beijing Travel Guide – Beijing official city guide HD – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHCab5_BArI
Visit Beijing – 5 Things You WIll Love & Hate about Beijing, China – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZVSii6rB5g
This Is My City – Beijing  – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hx35kanMWh0
BEIJING Modern City – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RH3PvfI7ELQ
Discover Beijing III: A Modern City in Motion (Full Episode) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PrcMFLQ5IQ

[Documentary] The Forbidden City of Ming &Qing Dynasties (1368 – 1912 AD – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QvsCr_xK3c
Beijing Travel Guide – Forbidden City Documentary (Palace Museum) Part 1 “Secrets” HD – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHypO2ISPas

National Geographic – The Great Wall of China – Documentary  – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjlydnRqcmw

Beijing 2008 Opening Ceremony – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ii-n_QSS0og

Sight Seeing To Ha Long Bay

Whilst visiting the lovely city of Hanoi, I was eager to check out the nearby shoreline and the iconic “Ha long Bay” which I had seen many times in images and film but never really knew exactly where this place was.
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Halong Bay consists of around 2,000 variously sized islands rising out of the sea, carved by 500 million years of erosion, although I much prefer the ancient legend which tells of a family of dragons sent to protect and defend the Vietnamese people against Chinese invaders. Whilst fighting the dragons spat out jewels which then turned into islands, forming a great barrier against the invaders. Once the fighting had been won, the dragons chose to settle here and the remaining islands were created by the violently whipping tails of the dragon children.

I was astounded to learn that many families live their entire lives on small boats and rafts within these islands never settling on dry land. Floating fishing villages can include markets and schools and everything needed to provide for a small community.

I wanted a smaller light aircraft which would be better suited to sight seeing than that of my regular Beech Baron 58. After a bit of research I opted for the Cessna Skylane C180 by A2A Simulations. This is a fantastic recreation it’s real life counter part and the attention to detail is hugely impressive; Even down the the engine maintantence and pre-flight walk around. I can certainly recommend A2A aircraft to any flight sim enthusiasts looking to get a whole new level of realism from their experience.

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ACCU-SIM C182 SKYLANE FIRST IMPRESSIONS – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUF4GIzujy8
A2A Accu-Sim Skylane 18 Minute First Look – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lw4gWmXwD-I
A2A Cessna 182 Skylane Full review – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gD3wzJZGPo

After a very brief test with the new Cessna Skylane, I was soon taxiing behind a CRJ700 and took off to start my morning sight seeing tour of Halong Bay.
It was a slow cruise of 120 knots at 5,500 feet and it was rather relaxing watching the river snake its way towards the sea. I could see the turquoise colours of the ocean in the distance but the river, breaking off into many streams and esturies was much murkier inland.
Reaching Halong bay I was hugely disappointed by the lack of details captured by the FSX default scenery. This just confirmed to me even more that Halong bay is such an amazing place that I really would have to see if first hand to truely appreciate it.
I spent a while in the air to enjoy the new Cessna Skylane and was soon dropping through the clouds to make my landing back at Hanoi International Airport. I was relieved to find out after 3 hours of flight time, the aircraft was still in a great condition as according to the hanger’s aircraft notes.

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Hanoi – Halong Bay — Voyage to the land of junks and sampans (Documentary, Discovery, History) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gx3-JfGgAQE
VIETNAM Travel Diary (Hanoi & Halong Bay!) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTwOk8Snt9c
Hello Vietnam: Vinh Long, Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Da Nang, Hoi An | HAUSOFCOLOR – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MutE9-JcWj0
Travelling Halong bay weather 2015 | Vietnam travel guide 2016 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX-8QKcFmAE
Travel Halong Bay Vietnam – Impressions [HD] – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4l3fNoEfCgY
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam – Journey with Jamie Logan – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGy5zRjC-N0

Mount Everest

The challange of landing my small Beech Baron at the world’s most dangerous runway certainly filled me with excitment but I must admit that the relief felt upon landing safely was holding me at this location for much longer than it should have. I suppose I was reluctant to send my plane rattling downhill towards a 2000 ft drop into a valley. I chose to spend a fair amount of time exploring the extremely well trodden pathways from Lukla to Everest base camps.
Using Google Earth I was very pleased to see that someone with stronger legs than mine has taken 360 degree photos all the way along these paths incorporating “street view” features, all whilst above 9,000 ft. The paths were small and damp with a handful of man-made bridges crossing icy river waters. The shacks and lodges along the route seemed to be the true definition of cosy. I could very easily imagine numbers of people making new friends and sharing many a warming drink before taking on the massive adventure of climbing Mount Everest.
Earlier into my around the world tour, I flew to Mt. Kilimanjaro and after watching several videos from those who have scaled this peak, I would very much love to complete this challenge first hand. For some reason I do not share the same passion or desire to climb Everest. It may be due to my stronge dislike for the cold. I was much happier to be able to fly around this iconic mountain virtually and appreciate its massive size from the warmth and comfort of my leather chair.
Working up the courage to leave theI took a long flight North from Lukla and found my way to the tallest peak I could find. It was safe to say that Everest was rather easy to find although it was as slow struggle to gain the altitude needed to clear some of the ridges as I flew around.
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When considering the next leg of my tour, I knew that I would need to start with a lot more fuel on board. I was less than confident taking off from Lukla with full tanks of fuel. This would only make my plane heavier and more likely to dive off of the end of the runway. I figured it would be much safer to return to Kathmandu and complete the full journey to Dhaka from Kathmandu. With the little fuel I had left after navigating my way around Mount Everest itself I took a final low flight through the valleys eventually reaching the basin surrounding Kathmandu.
Another spectacular part of this around the world tour was over but I was eager to move on to see what else the world has to offer. Next stop, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
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Mount Everest and its geological story – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KRTfKZfIp0
Climbing MT Everest with a Mountain on My Back The Sherpa’s Story BBC full documentary 2013 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlAiU5fIaKY
National Geographic Live! – The Call of Everest – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=megSEXmV0nQ
Everest – Getting to the Top – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFkC7Cd9-IE

Flight 68) Kathmandu – Lukla (The World’s Most Dangerous Airport!)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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