Tenzing-Hillary Airport

The Most Dangerous Airport in the World

The Tenzing-Hillary Airport, also known as Lukla Airport, is considered by many the world's most dangerous airport. It is located in the Himalaya mountain range, in Lukla, a town in Nepal, near the highest point on earth, the Mount Everest. Its IATA code is LUA and its ICAO code is VNLK. The runway of Lukla Airport is composed of runway 06 (used for landings) and 24 (used for takeoffs). The dangerousness of air operations at this airport are due to a combination of runway elevation, slope, length and surrounding terrain. First of all, the runway is built in the middle of a hillside. One end of the runway is followed by a cliff while the terrain right after the other end is a sharp uphill. Landings are performed in the direction of the uphill and take offs are performed in the direction of the cliff. Otherwise is impossible. Due to terrain limitations, the runway was built only 1509 feet (460 meters) long and, in addition, it has a significant slope. Another factor that significantly increase the dangerousness of operations is the elevation of the airport. It is located 9383 feet (2860 meters) high, where the air density is relatively low. The loss of capacity to generate lift that aircrafts experience under these conditions can be a critical aspect for takeoff and landing. The execution of any evasive action in case an approximation to landing gets frustrated on its final stage is virtually impossible due to both, poor aircraft performance because of air density, and the shape of the terrain that follows the runway. Regarding takeoffs, the slope, the lenght of the runway and the cliff leaves almost no margin to succesfully stop an airplane if takeoff must be aborted.


Flights from Lukla Airport are mainly destined to Tribhuvan International Airport that serves the city of Kathmandu and is the only international airport in Nepal. The airlines that operate in the Tenzing-Hillary Airport are Nepal Airlines (formerly named Royal Nepal Airlines, is the flag carrier airline of Nepal), Tara Air (company that belongs to Yeti Airlines), Gorkha Airlines, Simrik Airlines and Sita Air. All these airlines have their hubs located at the Tribhuvan International Airport.

Access to the Everest

The Tenzing-Hillary Airport is the main way to access to the base camp of the magnificent Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. Those who wish to reach the base camp of the Everest usually take off from the city of Kathmandu to the village of Lukla on a flight that last about 35 minutes. Once they arrive at Lukla Airport they start an uphill trek that last 8 days more or less until they get to the souththern base camp of the Everest that is the one located in Nepal. The other base camp is located in the northern side of the Everest, in the China's Tibet Autonomous Region, and is more accessible as there is a road to get there by vehicle. Although, a permit from the chinese government is required to access that base camp.

Airport Images

The impressive Tenzing-Hillary Airport that serves the picturesque town of Lukla.

Runway 24 at Lukla Airport.

The airport of Lukla in November 1999, when the runway was not paved as it is today.

View to the airport from the cockpit of a De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter of Yeti Airlines that is approaching to land

An airplane gets positioned to take off from the Tenzing-Hillary Airport at dawn.

Aircraft on final approach to land at snowy Lukla airport.

Lukla Airport Satellite View

Topics: Aviation

By Aerospace Insight