The Lukla Airport

јэропорт Ћукла The Lukla airport is the main air gateway of Everest. It is through this tiny airport arrive for the start of the route almost all the tourists go on trekking to Everest base camp and the climbers, dreaming about the top of Chomolungma. Popular stamp was naming Lukla "the most dangerous airport in the world". I don't think it is actually surely must be designated and harder. However Lukla is really extreme. The length of the runway 520 meters. With one hand she breaks into the abyss, with the other rests on a rock. Moreover, the slope of the runway is 10-12 degrees. So will land there should be only in one direction, and only the first time. Pilots say that after the aircraft crosses the river, there is no turning back - he should land, the second approach is impossible.

History of Lukla airport

29 may 2014 airport Lukla turned 50 years old. Its construction began in 1964 with the support of the "Himalayan Trust Fund Edmund Hillary. This Fund has been actively engaged in the construction of schools and medical institutions in the region and the airport was originally intended for the delivery of goods associated with this activity. After all, before the advent of the runway in Lukla, to get here from Kathmandu took about 3 weeks. A significant part of the way we had to go on foot and goods were transported by porters. Over time, significantly increased the value of this airport as the guarantor of the development of tourism in the Khumbu region. Now the annual flow of tourists through to Lukla is about 25,000 people.

On the one hand, this influx of tourists threatens the ecology of the national Park Sagarmatha, but on the other produces here a real economic revolution, allows the Sherpas and other residents of the region to raise their standard of living to unprecedented heights.

In 1997, there were mass protests of the local population against the idea of the development of alternative airport in Syangboche, near Namche-Bazaar. It could reduce profit Loja below Namche. Therefore, the project was suspended and continued to develop to Lukla. Long runway in Lukla remained dirt, lightly sprinkled with crushed stone. And in 2001 it was asphalted and built a new terminal building. In 2008, the airport received the name of Tenzing and Hillary - the first climbers on Everest. Lukla is still no navigation equipment, pilots perform takeoff and landing focusing exclusively visually. And when on the runway fall fog (clouds, clouds) the probability of a crash is very high.

Major crash with fatal outcome occurred in Lukla in 1991 (14 people), 2004 (3), 2008 (20 people). They all occurred during landing. On takeoff crash also happened time and again in 1973, 1992, 2005. But their effects have been much less tragic - damage to the housing or chassis of the aircraft and its subsequent withdrawal.

Aircraft-bus

Because of the extremely short length of the runway in Lukla here can only work a special aircraft with short takeoff and landing. This canadian DHC-6 Twin Otter and German Dornier 228. They are easy to distinguish - Dornier longer nose, which hides the extra baggage compartment, and the Twin Otter is not hiding the chassis and have the supports under the wings. But those and other this other planes minibuses accommodating up to 20 people and cost $ 7 million apiece.

Own weight of such a plane approximately 3.5 tonnes, capacity from 1.5 to 2 tons. If 2 ton split into 20 passengers you get only 100 kg per person. This is very little, such a norm tuleushin every year tourists (humanity fat and accumulates gadgets no longer fit. Therefore, on most flights Lukla download limit 15-18 passengers. In addition every year Nepal airlines are tightening standards for the passage of Luggage. Currently permissible weight of the checked baggage only 10 kg per person. Plus a couple of kilos of hand Luggage. Until that hand baggage control carelessly, but should happen next crash due to overload and airlines are not interested in the loss of expensive aircraft and their reputation, they will take control dimensionless pockets, and other tricks of the passengers. Either will increase the already high price ($260 one way), to be able to put on a flight for another couple of people.

Because of the variability of the weather every minute counts clear sky, so the landing and embarkation of passengers occur in a row without any breaks for cleaning and maintenance. Everything happens at lightning speed - the plane lands, drives off the field in the "pocket" (there is another), the passengers jump out of the "bus" and run to the terminal, departing already standing at the ready, while the movers bring Luggage on hand trucks. The order on the field supports the Nepalese army. In the hot season, when you open a "window" in the clouds, the planes come in for a landing in a continuous succession. It is fascinating to see, a fantastic conveyor, anthem efficiency.

Weather in Lukla

Even under normal weather airport Tenzing and Hillary takes the aircraft only in the interval from 6:30 until 15:30. If the weather worsens, the Lukla airport stops to take flight regardless of the time of day and the number of angry screaming passengers. This pause can last from a few hours, then weeks. When or how long the delay in Lukla begin to accumulate down the mountain tourists. Lodges are full, prices are rising, people are nervous and storming the offices of the airlines to something to find out. Constantly are some stupid lists. The contemplation of the weather sites are becoming the most popular entertainment (at other times all have fun watching the planes landing). The beauty of the situation is that even if the weather will get better, in order to remove all gathered in Lukla people may need a few days. But time is running out - the majority of tourists no more than one spare day before flying home from Kathmandu. To lose the expensive tickets international flights and late for work no one wants. And then begin throwing - whether to wait on the queue for departure or to try alternative ways to return to Kathmandu?

Alternative Lukla

If the planes don't fly, but you really need to get out, you can use one of two alternative options. The first is the helicopter. Helicopters fly in almost any weather, fogs, they almost frightening. The price is about $ 500. After returning to Kathmandu you will be able to hand in their tickets and thus would be to save 180-200 bucks.

The second option is to flee on foot in some other village and find the transport. Usually run in Jiri, Phaplu or Salleri. But by the time this descent will take at least 2-3 days. In the best case - if you go fast and hard. To achieve the village will need to find a jeep and another 8-12 hours to shake it to Kathmandu.

It is unlikely you will be able to make a difficult decision (not to wait for the plane) instantly. Most likely it will be preceded by a period of reflection and precious time will be lost. Anyway, as practice shows, the modern man free money on average more than free time. Therefore, the best options for evacuation, in my opinion, is still the helicopter.

Tips for those who fly in to Lukla

Tips for those who fly from Lukla

When planning their tours to Everest we try to establish the program at least 3 spare days (the time between arrival in Lukla and fly from Kathmandu). In the case of happy circumstances we use them for trips to the reserve, Chitwan, rafting, and shopping.

Kirill Yasko, November 12, 2014