Climbing Mt. Everest

VFR Flight #6


Grab your hooks, ropes, and tents my fine friends as we are going on a trekking adventure of a lifetime.  ALTAIR is serving as a host charter for all Mt. Everest trekkers and airline charters are in large demand.  The winds are unforgiving, and the mountains will sneak up on you like an unwanted red-headed stepchild.  Your job is to get your trekkers to Mt. Everest, and take some great photos along the way. You never know, you might catch a photo of the Yeti.    Are you up to the challenge?                     

Welcome to the Kingdom of Nepal

Nepal is located among the southern slopes of the Himalayan Mountains in South Central Asia. It is bound by China to the north and India to the east, west and south. The country is divided into three main topographical regions. (1.) The high mountains of the main Himalayan Range, which include Mt. Everest, Mt. Lhotse and Mt. Makalu. (2.) Kathmandu Valley which is a circular basin enclosed by tertiary ranges known as the Siwalik Hills. (3.) The Tarai, which is a narrow flat belt of alluvial land that extends along the southern border with India. 

Nepal has a climate that ranges from subtropical summers with mild winters in the southern lowlands to an alpine climate with cool summers as well as severe winters in the mountains. Average annual precipitation decreases from 1,778 mm (70 inches) in the east to 899 mm (35 inches) in the west. Average temperature ranges in Kathmandu are from 2 to 20 degrees Celsius (36 to 73 degrees Fahrenheit) in January to 20 to 29 degrees Celsius (68 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit) in July.

The Nepalese are a very friendly people of Indo-Aryan ancestry. They constitute the great majority of the population. Tibeto-Nepalese peoples form a significant minority of the country's population. Nepali, a derivative of Sanskrit, is the official language. Some nine-tenths of the population is Hindu, and a small minority is Buddhist. And best of all it holds the legendary Yeti.  Ok enough educational preachings, on to the flight.

This VFR flight consists of four legs.  If you can master this leg of the flight you should have no problem with the other three.  We end this VFR flight with a mysterious flight around Mt. Everest that I think you will all enjoy.  That flight will be posted later.


Jomson Airfield.  Photo by Paul Spijkers. Used with Permission

First Leg

Simikot - Jomsom (VNST - VNJS)

VNST-VNJS   VNST (Simikot, Nepal; alt: 9246' lgth: 1800') to VNJS (Jomsom, Nepal; alt: 8800' lgth:2000') No navaids

Route: VNST - VNJL (NDB 242) - VNDP - VNJS  Cruise Altitude: FL210

Simikot airport lies at 9246' (the highest airport of this trip) and only 1800' long.  Trekking to Tibet  usually starts from this western town of Nepal via Mt. Kailash (Tibet) which will be visible on the route to VNJL. 

This leg's destination airport is VNJS, Jomsom. This airport is located at 8800' ASL and only 2000' long.  Plan on landing on runway 6 as that is the runway that has the lower hills. 



The aircraft I recommend is the DHC-6 Twin Otter.  This is a great plane that has a lot of power.  It can climb quickly and land on a dime, and flying in this territory this is the plane you want.  Otherwise I would recommend the Beech 1800 C/D or 1900D or smaller, otherwise you will be flying a suicide  mission.                                                                                                                                                                                           


21,000'  As this might seem excessive, trust me at FL210 you will be rubbing the mountain tops with the belly of your plane, or depending on your experience you may be doing some head butting with the mountains.

Survival Gear

Bring some trail mix, a shot of Brandy, and an extra pair of clean underwear.  The trail mix is the in flight snack for your trekkers, the brandy is for you before you takeoff, and the clean underwear are for you after you land.


Second Leg

Jomsom - Pokhara (VNJS - VNPK)

VNJS-VNPK    VNJS (Jomsom, Nepal alt: 8800') No navaids to VNPK (Pokhara, Nepal alt: 2710' VOR 112.8 NDB 336)

Route: VNJS-VNPK   Cruise Altitude: FL160

If Kathmandu is the cultural hub of Nepal, Pokhara is its centre of adventure. An enchanting city nestled in a tranquil valley, it is an extraordinarily beautiful place. The green valley is dotted with lakes, its gentle climate nurturing a variety of flowers. The lush tropical setting is backed by some of the world’s highest peaks: Dhaulagiri, the Annapurna range, Manaslu, Himalchuli, and most spectacular of all, Macchapuchare, the ‘Fishtail’

Third Leg

Pokhara  Lukla (VNPK - VNLK)  


Approach into Lukla   Courtesy of Nick Jacobs.  Used with permission.

Route:  VNPK - KTM (VOR 112.3) - VNRT - VNLK       VNPK (Pokhara, Nepal alt: 2710' VOR 112.8) to VNLK (Lukla, Nepal; alt: 9098' lgth: 1600')

Mountaineers headed for Mt. Everest from Kathmandu can fly to a village called Lukla, about 21 nm from the peak. . The gravel runway lies at an altitude of about 9098 ft (2774 m) on a high shelf on the flank of a deep valley.  It is oriented more or less perpendicular to the valley wall and has a considerable slope.  Its length is 1600 ft, and the height difference between its ends is perhaps 150 ft (50 m;  I have also seen double that figure mentioned on the web, but the pictures suggest the lower height difference).  That is a slope of about 1:10 or 10%, like a fairly steep road!  The "ramp" or parking area of the "airport" lies next to the high end of the airstrip, practically in the village center. 

To get a feel for what it is like to land at Lukla, read the following warning from a trekker passenger who was brave enough to land at Lukla.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            


"It is not the Twin Otter, 17-seat airplane that concerns me. Rather, it is the airport at Lukla where we land 45 minutes after departing Pokhara that frightens all of us. Carved out of the side of a mountain, the runway, as long as it can possibly be, is too short to land this type of aircraft with all passengers, gear, and supplies. To compensate for that, the dirt and grass runway has been angled at about 6°, allowing the plane to "hit" the end and taxi uphill as the pilots madly slam on the brakes and reverse engines. The takeoff will be even more spectacular as the plane rushes furiously downhill, gaining speed as it literally drops off a 6,000 ft. embankment and soars out (down?) into space. We all breathe a sigh of relief as we step off the plane and inhale the crisp mountain air. We are here -- I am going to Mt. Everest!"




Courtesy of Nick Jacobs.  Used with permission.


Well that's it for this portion of the flight, the ALTAIR Events Department hopes you enjoyed yourself, and hope you come back for Lucky VFR flight 13, where we takeoff from Lukla and fly around Mt. Everest.  Don't forget your survival gear.