Everest airport difficult for landings and take-offs

The crash site of a domestic Summit Air aircraft and two helicopters at Lukla Airport in Nepal yesterday. The airport is reputed to be one of the most difficult in the world for landings and take-offs.
The crash site of a domestic Summit Air aircraft and two helicopters at Lukla Airport in Nepal yesterday. The airport is reputed to be one of the most difficult in the world for landings and take-offs.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KATHMANDU • A small plane veered off the runway and hit two helicopters while taking off near Mount Everest yesterday, killing three people and injuring three, officials said.

The accident happened at Lukla Airport, the main gateway to the Everest region. It is reputed to be one of the most difficult in the world for landings and take-offs.

A co-pilot of the turbo-prop Let-410 plane run by Summit Air, which was bound for Kathmandu, and a police officer on the ground were killed on the spot.

"The plane slipped towards the helipad during take-off and collided with two helicopters. The injured have been sent to Kathmandu for treatment," Lukla Airport official Ema Nath Adhikari told Agence France-Presse. "We are not sure about the cause of the accident."

Pictures from the scene showed mangled and scorched wreckage of the plane and helicopters.

Lukla Airport is used by thousands of trekkers and climbers heading to the Everest region each year.

It is particularly busy in April as the spring mountain climbing season begins.

The wreckage of a Summit Air turbo-prop plane lying in between two helicopters on an airstrip at Nepal's Lukla Airport after the plane hit them during take-off yesterday. Three people - the plane's co-pilot and two police officers - were killed in th
3 killed in aircraft accident near Everest: The wreckage of a Summit Air turbo-prop plane lying in between two helicopters on an airstrip at Nepal's Lukla Airport after the plane hit them during take-off yesterday. Three people - the plane's co-pilot and two police officers - were killed in the crash at the airport, which serves as the main gateway to the Everest region and is one of the world's most difficult for take-offs and landings. An airport official said the plane slipped towards the helipad during take-off and collided with the two helicopters. Lukla Airport is used by thousands of trekkers and climbers heading for the Everest region each year. PHOTO: EPA-EFE 

Nepal's aviation industry has boomed in recent years, flying tourists and goods to remote corners of the Himalayan nation, where road access is limited.

But the impoverished country has a poor air safety record due to weak training and maintenance. The European Union has banned all Nepalese airlines from its airspace over safety concerns.

Seven people, including the country's tourism minister, were killed in February when a helicopter crashed in the hilly east.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 15, 2019, with the headline 'Everest airport difficult for landings and take-offs'. Print Edition | Subscribe