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Serving as the primary gateway to Mt. Everest, Tenzing-Hillary Airport — otherwise known as Lukla for the small town it resides in — sits over 9,000 feet above sea level, with a single 1,729-foot runway bookended by a steep drop off and an immovable stone wall built into a mountain. Further, the runway actually slopes downward towards the cliff, so as to provide additional speed for departing aircraft and assist arriving aircraft in stopping as quickly as possible.
The airport exclusively handles prop planes and helicopters capable of high-altitude and short runway operations (like the famous DHC-6 Twin Otter), and go-arounds are rare due to the extreme terrain surrounding the airport. At the moment, all scheduled flights operate to nearby Kathmandu, arriving or departing Lukla (LUA) during daylight hours, as the airport lacks basically any navigational aids. If you want to climb Mt. Everest or the surrounding terrain, your odyssey will begin arriving into this infamous airport.
For this week’s crazy aviation video, take a seat aboard a Dornier Do 228 turboprop and experience the wonder (and terror) of landing at Lukla. Glimpse the glorious views on approach — clouds, mountains and all. It’s hard to tell, but keen-eyed observers may be able to spot the mighty Mt. Everest before the crew makes a right turn towards the runway. As a lifelong flight simulator enthusiast, Lukla was always a favorite airport for a one-of-a-kind challenging landing. Suffice it to say, it took me a while to get it right.
Have you been to Lukla? If not, what’s the most intense airport you’ve flown into or out of? Let us know, below!
UPDATE 4/26/17: TPG reader Michael Blitch is in Lukla now and shares this awesome view of a plane approaching and landing at Lukla:
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