World’s Most Dangerous Airport: Lukla, Nepal
Situated at an elevation of 10,000 feet in the Himalaya Mountains of Nepal, Lukla's airport is undoubtedly the most dangerous in the world. Tenzing-Hillary Airport (VNLK), named after the famous first climbers to summit Mount Everest, features a single 1500 foot runway with a 12% slope gradient. The airport serves as the main arrival point for people planning on climbing Mount Everest, and is situated near the main base camp. The airport is serviced by a variety of small regional airlines operating flights mostly to Kathmandu, Nepal's capital. These flights are operated by DHC-6 Twin Otters, Dornier 228's, Pilatus PC-6's, and the occasional helicopter. The terminal has 4 stands for small commercial prop-planes and a single helipad. Lukla has a small operating control tower. The 1500 foot long and 65 foot wide runway 06-24, with its gradient of 12%, is also one of the steepest runways in the world. All aircraft must land uphill on Runway 6 and must depart downhill on 24. There is literally no chance of a successful go-around or aborted takeoff at Lukla. At Southwest end is a 2000' foot drop into the valley and at the opposite end is rugged terrain. Not surprisingly, the airport is home to a number of major accidents, many of which were fatal. In 1973 and 1991, Royal Nepal Airlines DHC-6's crashed on approach from the capital, with everyone surviving. In May 2004, a Yeti Airlines Twin Otter crashed on approach, killing all 3 crew members onboard. Luckily, no passengers were onboard at the time. In October of the same year a Do-228 crashed on takeoff and closed the airport for a few days. The airport's deadliest incident occurred in October of 2008, when a Yeti DHC-6 crashed on short final and instantly started on fire. 18 passnegers and crew were killed in the crash. Oddly enough, the only survivor was the Twin Otter's Captain. The crash was caught on tape by an unsuspecting German family. Although it is the most dangerous airport in the world, Lukla is still a popular destination for tourists and aviation enthusiasts alike. It's unique operations and layout make it a one of a kind airport. It is definitely on my airport bucket list.