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Is This The World's Toughest Airport?

The Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla, Nepal is arguably the most challenging airport in the world. With its high altitude, mountains, wind-shear, turbulence, short runway, and constantly changing weather, landing here is reserved for the most experienced of pilots.

At 9,392 feet, Lukla Nepal is one of the world's highest airports, and it's the stopping off point for hikers trekking to Mount Everest. Its single runway, 06/24, is only 1,500 feet long and has a 12% gradient. It's a one-way-in, one-way-out airport, with traffic landing on Runway 06 and departing from Runway 24. There's no prospect of a successful go-around on short final due to the terrain. With a cliff face towering over the northern end of the airport and a steep drop off into the valley below to the south, this airport extremely challenging.

Wikimedia
Sam Chui / Airliners.net
Sam Chui / Airliners.net

Since 2004, there have been 6 aircraft accidents at the airport, 3 of them fatal. Most notably, on October 8th, 2008, Yeti Airlines Flight 103 (a DHC-6 Twin Otter) crashed on final approach and caught fire, killing eighteen passengers and crew. The aircraft's captain was the only survivor. Video of the crash showed thick clouds covering the approach end of Runway 06.

Sam Chui / Airliners.net

The combination of challenges that Lukla provides is what makes the Tenzing-Hillary Airport challenging. During the approach, pilots face a go or no-go decision, where they're committed to landing and have no choice to go-around.

It's A Beautiful Place To Fly

Lukla When It Still Had A Dirt Runway

GoPro Cockpit View

Dornier 228 Uses The Full Runway

If given the chance, would you want to fly into Lukla?


Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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