Day 4 - Our Third Attempt at Flying to Lukla...
It was Day 4.
And after two unsuccessful attempts at flying to Lukla on the previous couple of days, we have become numbed to the process.
Waking up at 5:30am to dump our luggage at the hotel lobby at 6:15am to hit the Kathmandu Domestic airport at 7am to catch the flight at 7:30am had become a routine that everyone could execute without Adrian or Melvin uttering another word.
So here we were, on this fateful Day 4 of our trip, on our third attempt at flying to Lukla...
So it seemed... the weather in Kathmandu was great. The weather in Lukla was great. And everything was GO for the flight.
And we all got our boarding passes... we all got onto the bus that carried us to the waiting planes...
The excitement was once again, palpable...
On Board the Dornier Propeller Plane...
Yes, the first flight carrying a group of passengers (not our team's) had flown off.
And our first team's plane had taxied to the runway and very soon had also taken off.
Now, those of us in the second team needed only to wait for our turn to fly.
We were all pretty carried away in our own preparation for picture-taking while on the flight...
This was the lovely stewardess on our Day 4's aborted flight... distributing to Wai Kit his share of candies and cotton for his ears...
Haha... what a moment!
Yes indeed, the first flight of the morning had gotten into some turbulent trouble, and had almost crashed while landing in Lukla Airport. Still, they managed to land.
Our first team's pilot had been radio-ed on the turbulence and had to make a last minute decision to abort the landing and head back for Kathmandu.
In fact, those of us on the first team did experience quite a terrific amount of air-pocket see-sawing while en route to Lukla.
Sigh... only those of us in the second team remained grounded and never even had a chance to lift off from the runway...
Serene: "Yah what a waste! My only shot for the whole day can make it one was this one. Some more after that also never got chance to take off. So really wasted lah. "
The BAPTISM OF Tenzing-Hilary Airport (aka Lukla Airport)
Renamed in 2008 after the famous pair of climbers, this tiny airport is the point of entry to Lukla town at an altitude of 2800m.
This is where most climbers to the Everest trek would start their journey.
Tenzing-Hilary Airport was reported by The History Channel as the most dangerous airport in the world for the following reasons:
- It has a very short runway of only 460m.
- The runway is angled at 12 degree inclination for a landing plane,
- ...at the end of which is nothing but a vertical face of a hill side, thus leaving the pilot with no possibility of a second chance at landing should the first try go awry.
- Because of its location right in a valley, strong wind and poor visibility are very common and often are hindrance to a successful landing or take off.
Because of the smallness of the runway, only Twin Otter planes and Dornier 228 can be employed.
Despite the relatively high volume of flights to and fro The Tenzing-Hilary Airport, the incidence rate remained surprisinly low.
Here are some recent accident reports from Wikipedia:
15 October 1973
On landing at the airport, a Royal Nepal Airlines DHC-6 Twin Otter 300, registration 9N-ABG, was damaged beyond repair. The three crew and three passengers were unhurt.
9 June 1991
Flying from Kathmandu, a Royal Nepal Airlines DHC-6 Twin Otter 300, registration 9N-ABA, crashed at the airport while attempting to land following an unstabilized approach in bad weather. All three crew and fourteen passengers were killed.
26 September 1992
A Royal Air Nepal Harbin Yunshuji Y-12-11 registered 9N-ACI faltered during take-off and was damaged beyond repair. All on board (twelve passengers and two crew) survived.
25 May 2004
While on approach to the airport, a Yeti Airlines DHC-6 Twin Otter Series 300 (registration 9N-AFD) flying from Kathmandu crashed into Lamjura Hill in heavy cloud. No passengers were on board, but all three crew members were killed. The Nepalese accident investigation committee concluded that the captain provided inaccurate information as regards his position to the Area Control Centre.
1 October 2004
On landing at the airport, a Sita Air Dornier Do 228 suffered a collapse of its nose gear and slid along the runway, blocking it once it had come to rest. The airport was closed for two days.
30 June 2005
A Gorkha Airlines Dornier Do 228 skidded off the runway while attempting to land. The nine passengers and three crew suffered minor injuries. The aircraft was reportedly withdrawn from use and written off after the accident.
8 October 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.
25 August 2010
Agni Air Flight 101 crashed at Shikharpur while returning to Kathmandu after bad weather had prevented it from reaching Lukla. All eleven passengers and three crew perished.
12 October 2010
A Sita Air Dornier Do 228 lost braking control and impacted the wall-end of the runway during landing. All passengers and crew on board survived without injuries and the aircraft received damage to its nose.
Hehe... of course, now that we have flown in and out of Lukla Airport, we could list out all the accidents and have no need to worry about this airport... at least for the near future... hahaha...
T R A V E L O G U E
Our troubles continued...
Looking back at the tiny aircraft after we alighted...
This was the plane that we would never take to Lukla... ever.
Sincerely, I think this was Adrian and Melvins' most most stressful trip EVER.
With all these flight delays and cancellations, the whole trip's itinerary was in danger of being totally aborted.
At this point in time, all kinds of thoughts were in every one's mind.
And every body was thinking of very different things.
But Adrian and Melvin still had one last fighting chance to pull the whole trick together...
Tough job, man, these two brave men.
Well... still, we all had one last chance.
It was really almost an all-or-nothing rule.
If tomorrow's flight to Lukla doesn't come true, well, we'll think about it tomorrow.
Meanwhile, we will live to fight another day.
And some of our members have already started checking out their policies...
While, back in the hotel, Melvin Tan almost did a Rain Dance to pray for successful flight the next day. He would have done in it the buff had it been demanded of him, and sacrificed 108 sheeps together while he was at it, I was quite sure... haha...
And Goose was having his forth welcome drink in the background to drown his sorrow, and Leong was doing his Sambayang to pray for good weather tomorrow.
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Day 5 ~ Finally! Successful flight from Kathmandu to Lukla!