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Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Scenic mountain flight to Mount Everest on 80th anniversary of first flight over the highest mountain in the world

This morning I took the mountain flight from Kathmandu airport in Nepal over Mount Everest the highest mountain of the world. In fact by pure chance today is the 80th anniversary of the first flight over Everest. On April 3rd 1933, two Westland PV-3 biplanes one of them piloted by Douglas Douglas-Hamilton 14th Duke of Hamilton took off from Purnea in Bihar and flew to the Himalaya mountains and managed to get 50 metres above the 8,848m mountain.

Photo: first flight over Mount Everest on April 3rd 1933
The scenic mountain flight to Mount Everest is organised for tourists coming to Nepal and currently two airlines Buddha Air and Yeti Airlines operate this route. The Everest mountain flight always takes off early in the morning to maximise your chances of getting clear views of the mountains before cloud build up later in the day. This normally means a pick up from your hotel around 5.30am and once through the busy domestic terminal you should be airborne by 6.30am.

Photo: boarding Buddha Air's ATR42
I flew with Buddha Air on one of their ATR 42 planes and for their Everest mountain flight everyone has a window seat so aisle seat is left empty. The air hostesses will hand out a leaflet with a sketch map of the mountain ranges with their names so it should be possible on a clear day to identify the peaks you see out of the window.

Photo: inside ATR42 for Everest mountain flight
Photo: map of the peaks
Shortly after taking off Langtang Lirung comes into view and just to the right in the distance is Shishapangma which at 8,013m the fourteenth highest mountain in the world. The next easily distinguishable peak is Gauri-Shankar followed by the flat topped mountain called Melungtse. The huge pyramid of Cho Oyu comes soon after at 8,201m is the sixth highest mountain. Of course the peak everyone is looking for is Mount Everest and this appears flanked by Lhotse and Nuptse, the highest peak in the world is often seen with the characteristic white plume of cloud streaming from the summit.

Photo: mountain view from the window
At this point in the flight everyone is invited up to the cockpit to view Everest and surrounding mountains from the pilot’s view point. The plane flies close by Everest and then turns for the return flight back to Kathmandu. If you sit on the left side of the plane you will see the mountain view on approach to Everest and if on right you will see the view on the return back to Kathmandu airport however you can also sit on aisle seats so in practice one gets a pretty good view for both directions.

Photo: in cockpit of Buddha Air's ATR42
In total from take-off to landing the mountain flight takes about 45 minutes and Mount Everest appears after about 20 minutes. On getting back to the airport after the flight you will be picked up for the drive back to your hotel where you can have your breakfast and view your photos of this spectacular flight high into the Himalayas.

Photo: Mountain Everest in centre with summit plume
Photo: view from the window
This scenic mountain flight is popular with people who may not get the opportunity to see Mount Everest while on trek, I suggest it would be worth considering taking this flight if you are on a tour of Nepal. The Mountain Company includes Everest flight in our Luxury Tour of Nepal itinerary although we can also organise for you as an extra if you join our Highlights Tour of Nepal. Classic Tour of Nepal or for any of our trekking holidays in Nepal.

Roland Hunter

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