History of Lukla Airport

  • Silu Pandey
  • Last Updated on Aug 16, 2023

In the early period, the early trekkers and climbers needed to walk overland from Kathmandu to Mount. Everest. Therefore, it takes more days to complete this long Expedition. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa were the first climbers who took their foot on top of the world's tallest Mountain, Mt. Everest for the first time and created history.

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After coming back from Mt. Everest by summiting it, Edmund Hillary realized that his succession was not possible without the Sherpa people. So, he decided to take the responsibility to pay back to them.

Therefore, Hillary discussed longer with the local Sherpa residents and found out their problems. They did not have the accessibility to schools and hospitals. They had to walk for many days for getting to these facilities and buying some goods as well. As a result, Edmund Hillary planned for providing them with all their needs. He built up the domestic airport at first in Lukla as well as the school and hospital simultaneously.

In 1964, Hillary succeeded to establish the airport in Lukla and he might not imagine that his creation is going to be very popular in the world. Today, more than thousands of trekkers and climbers in a year enter the Everest region through this airport.

During the construction process of the airport, Hillary had to face many problems like the lack of huge flat land. Most of the land was used for farming. And Sherpas were not ready to give up their farming land for the airport because that was the source of their earnings. They had to survive on those farms.

However, the runway was established on a narrow land in the middle of the beautiful surroundings including mountains and green hills. Eventually, the runway is ready to use in 2001. In 2008, the Nepal Government renamed this Lukla Airport as Hillary Tenzing Airport. It was the same year when Edmund Hillary died and the death year of Tenzing Norgay was 1986.

The Lukla Airport Today

The Tenzing Hillary Airport is considered as the most unique airport in the universe because of its physical structure. Standing at 2846 meters above sea level, Lukla Airport is established on a steeply ascending narrow approach. The runway is very short. Its juxtaposition between the world's tallest mountains enhances the uniqueness of Lukla Airport.

One of the most concerning things about Hillary Airport is the weather condition. The weather changes there instantly. Even a weather forecaster can not detect sometimes. Due to this issue, the flight cancels or delays. It happens mostly in the monsoon and winter seasons. So, it is advisable to take a morning flight which is a sure and safer time. The flight keeps running till to afternoon, especially in the autumn and spring seasons. There is no flight in the evening and night period.

The Hillary Airport is a means of importing and exporting goods for the residents of the Khumbu region. Today, more than dozens of aircraft land and take off daily at Lukla airport.

Along with the things and products, lots of trekkers and mountaineers also enter the Everest region via this airport because the Everest region opens for many adventure activities. Such as the Everest base camp trek, and Mt. Everest Expedition. Island Peak Climbing, Cho La Pass Trek, etc.

Furthermore, this is the busiest runway, though, it is a small airport. It is famous, especially in the groups of trekking and climbing.

Tenzing Hillary Airport Facts

Elevation: 2845 m Runway length: 527 m

Runway: Asphalt Paved Runway width: 30 m

Gradient: 11.7% Flight time: 6:30 am to 3:00 pm

Air traffic service: Aerodrome Flight Information Service

Number of flights per day: 20+

Name of the Airlines

Most of the flights go to Lukla from Kathmandu. However, it has been operated numerously from the Manthali Airport, Ramechhap during the peak season. Many flights carry passengers and transfer them to Lukla and Kathmandu. Some names of the airlines are given below;

Summit Air

Simrik Air

Nepal Air

Sita Air

Tara Air

Buddha Air, etc

On the other hand, there are some limited planes that work for cargo.

At Lukla Airport, there is a small space, allowing only four shorts to land and take off. So, the twin otter planes land there on their schedule. Besides, there are some helicopters located in the different locations of Lukla Airport.

The airlines like Royal Nepal, Yeti, Sita, Summit, etc operate the twin otter. It is a small plane, especially for going to the small airport in the mountainous region of Nepal. Because the jet engine airplane is unable to land at Lukla airport due to its small runway structure. The pilots are experienced at their targeted airports and well-known about the weather conditions of Lukla Airport.

Around 140 meters away at the northern side of the control tower of Lukla Airport, there are small Heli-pads for landing the helicopter for emergency service.

Getting into Lukla by Aircraft

Mostly the trekkers and climbers get into Lukla through the means of aircraft, though, there is the trekking routes from places called Jiri, Salleri, etc. Usually, visitors who want to reach the Everest region, take the airplane from Kathmandu airport. But nowadays, due to the high air traffic, the flights have been operating from the Manthali Airport, Ramechhap during the peak trekking seasons.

In order to reach Ramechhap, it takes almost four hours of driving from Kathmandu. It takes almost 20 minutes and 30 minutes to reach Lukla Airport from Manthali Airport and Kathmandu Airport respectively.

Besides, the Helicopter flight is another option. It is a bit more expensive than airplane fare, but it is also the medium to reach Tenzing Hillary Airport.

Flight Cancellation

It is well-known that the weather plays a pivotal role in operating the flights. And the weather changes instantly, especially in the case of Lukla. So, the flights cancel, postpone, and delay.

Besides, if the flights cancel for a few days due to bad weather, Lukla will get busy. So, it is recommended to reserve one more extra day. It helps not to miss international flights in case of worse weather conditions.

If the flight may not be delayed, the extra day can be spent in Kathmandu by roaming around it as there are lots of Heritage sites for sightseeing. And this day can be used for shopping as well.

Safety Concern

If the weather goes bad for more days, there is an only option i.e. chartering the Helicopter. It costs USD 1050 per person on sharing based. It is advisable that contact your travel agent as soon as possible to arrange the Helicopter if you want to come back to Kathmandu by Helicopter because of the long day of bad weather, the demand for the Helicopters will be high.

Besides, you can claim your flight fare refund from the concerned authority.

Silu Pandey

Silu Pandey