The World’s Most Dangerous Airport
Perched precariously on the edge of a mountain cliff side, we recently flew from the World’s most dangerous airport and we survived to tell the tale. Phew!
Despite the short flight time of just 40 minutes from Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, to reach the modest mountain dwelling of Lukla – this is not your average plane journey. Lukla airport has the hefty reputation of being the world’s most dangerous airport!
The World’s Most Dangerous Airport
You cannot pinpoint one particular reason why it has earned this fearsome title. It is a combination of many small things from the changeable weather conditions to the set up. All factors combined it brings a heavy reputation to strike fear into even the hardiest of travellers.
Our tiny 18-seater plane was the victim of turbulent mountain air
Lukla being the starting point to many spectacular hikes and adventures in the region including the Mount Everest Base camp and the Annapurna circuit, this modest mountain hub is almost essential for all visitors during the Nepalese trekking seasons.
Nestled into the mountain side at almost 9,500 feet above sea level, it’s not your typical runway.
Built back in the 1960’s by the famous mountaineer and Everest legend, Sir Edmund Hillary, there isn’t much wiggle room for error with a runway measuring just 1,729 feet long. Barely enough length for a plane to gain elevation, it also helps that the runway is built on a downward slope; this means that your plane starts the engine and you almost swoop off the edge like a children’s slide.
With 2,000 feet of sheer mountain drop below, it’s sure to get even the bravest of travellers’ stomachs in a vice.
With pilots flying on expert skill without any visual aid, this is definitely not your average airport.
The short runway is no optical illusion – you really do accelerate towards a cliff’s edge!
Delays Due to Weather Conditions
The majority of flights fly between 6am and midday due to more stable weather patterns in the turbulent mountain air. What the tour guides don’t tell you is that flights are almost always fully booked and if you aren’t lucky enough to get a seat on one of the prized morning flights then you can guess that you may have to wait until the following day to fly… or perhaps the day after that.
With no visual screens or any vocal direction from airport staff it can be a frustrating wait in this extremely basic airport. Our advice: bring something warm to wear and plenty of snacks! It even made worldwide press back in 2011 when a week of unrelenting fog engulfed the mountainside grounding all flights leaving around 500 people unable to travel.
If you have the cash, a helicopter ride is another option!
Don’t Fancy the Flight? There are other options…
So what if you don’t fancy your chances of flying at the world’s most dangerous airport? You are limited to just two choices. (1) You can take an 11-hour bus ride from Kathmandu to the town of Jiri and endure the 5-day-up-hill hike to reach Lukla. Or, (2) perhaps dig deep in your pockets for a few more hundred dollars to pay for a private helicopter transfer.
Despite all of this, the novelty and anticipation of flying from Lukla airport is all part of the adventure of visiting the region. Surrounded by dramatic snow capped mountains, goats roaming the runway to keep the surrounding grass in order, and the buzz of excited travellers, there is something incredibly endearing about this mountainside wonder.
The joy of a safe landing at Lukla is undeniable!