Planes fly up to 40,000 feet in the air, but they always AVOID one particular place, the highest point on Earth: Mount Everest.
Due to an ominous mix of high winds, shaky turbulence, and a havoc-wreaking altitude, commercial airlines AVOID Everest and the entire Himalayan range like the plane.
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But could we fly above Mount Everest it if we wanted to?
What if we could land on the summit and save months of hiking?
Mount Everest the crown jewel of the Himalayas, which straddles India, Nepal, China, and Bhutan a sense a whopping 8,848 meters into the clouds.
That’s 29,000 30 feet just over 4,600 6 footmen stacked on top of each other or about 20 times as tall as the Empire State Building.
So YEAH, it is not small folks.
We’ve regularly heard of climbers successfully reaching the summit.
Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to conquer it back on May 29, 1953.
But how come we haven’t heard of planes venturing up there.
Even though it would save us weeks of climbing and months of preparation, we can’t fly to the peak because of several safety factors.
What Are The Safety Factors Which Doesn’t Allow Aircraft to Flyover Himalayas?
In a region where flying conditions can become extremely unstable at the flick of a switch, it’s pivotal that aircraft have a runway available for an emergency landing. (or at least some flat terrain.)
Well, with hundreds of jagged peaks covered in ice and fog, you wouldn’t be finding any smooth ground near Everest any time soon.
There is one Airport in the area; however, it only brings more risk in chaos sitting in the mountain town of Lukla in eastern Nepal Tenzing Hillery airport, also known as the Lukla airport, is continuously rated as the world’s MOST dangerous airport.
For the last 20 or so years, it’s boasted that uncomfortable title.
The runway is a mere 1500 feet long and only 60 feet wide compared to the 12,000-foot runway of LAX; it’s tiny.
If you overshoot it, the runway ends with a blanket Mountain wall, not to mention the regular wind shear, low air pressure, high altitude dangers, and the uphill runway gradient of 12%.
You’ll never see a commercial 747 landing there; that’s for sure.
The next major issue might sound obvious, but it’s far more complicated than most of us realize.
We’re talking about the insanely high altitude.
Most commercial jets are built to fly at 30,000 feet or more.
Travelling from A to B planes usually fly in the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere called the troposphere.
Here’s the issue:
The Himalayan peaks bypassed the troposphere and reached the next level; Stratosphere.
Flying through fragile air with low oxygen levels only making turbulence and wind force uncomfortably stronger.
About that lack of oxygen, while most planes can.
Fly at high altitudes where oxygen levels are quite low; a significant issue arises over the Himalayas because of something called the drift down procedure.
Mostly if Kaos were to break out on board, aircraft only have 20 minutes of oxygen for passengers, so pilots have 20 minutes to steer their plane down to at least 10,000 feet to replenish oxygen in the cabin.
Here’s the catch:
If you tried that in the Himalayas, you’d come face-to-face with the side of a mountain.
One of the reasons that planes fly so high is because they want to have as they call it room for error.
What Happens when you lose the engine of the plane?
So imagine that you’ve lost an engine while the pilot assesses and tries to solve the problem; the plane can glide slowly to a lower altitude.
Over the Himalayas, there are only about six thousand feet between the mountains and the cruising altitude to play with, and that spells trouble.
So not only is there no room to move, but pilots also have to deal with high winds and turbulence unlike anywhere else.
When winds flow over mountain ranges at high speeds, a natural process called Mountain waves occurs.
These Mountain waves can make any flight sickeningly bumpy in the blink of an eye.
The Himalayan turbulence can get so bad that it becomes, and you’re impossible for commercial jets to fly over.
However, turbulence itself isn’t dangerous, only uncomfortable, all in all, airlines still prefer to AVOID it whenever possible.
These chaotic winds merged with the other factors we’ve touched on are the reason why people climb to the top as opposed to flying.
Ideal Climbing and trecking time
Most expeditions to Everest take around two months, and even the trek to base camp takes eight days.
But climbers can’t merely pack a rucksack and head up at just any time of the year there’s only a small climbing window between April and May where conditions are ideal.
From June to August, the threat of disastrous rainfall throws off climbers while the rest of the year is prone to deadly winds at the top.
In February 2004, a wind speed of 280 km/h or 175 miles per hour was recorded at the summit (while winds over 160 km/h or 100 miles per hour are frequent.)
All that said, there isn’t much of a need to fly over Everest in the first place because the major countries lying beside the Himalayan in the Tibet area are India and China.
Western China is very low in population and doesn’t need to have air travel while similarly, major flight services between India and China don’t route over the Himalayas.
There are also a few bases belonging to the Indian Air Force and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force scattered throughout the area, only allowing military aircraft to fly over the fields, not commercial planes.
So hypothetically, if we were flying over the summit, couldn’t we parachute from above and save months of climbing?
Technically you could.
Jump from above Mount Everest
British woman Holly Budge was the first person to jump from above Mount Everest back in 2008.
Left out from a height of about 8,940 meters, which is higher than Everest peak and landed further down the mountain.
The issues, of course, are battling the temperature Holly wore a neoprene undersuit and thermal gear and finding somewhere to safely land.
So while it is doable, it’s still almost impossibly tricky.
Sportsman Valery Rozo left from an altitude of 7,220 meters and glided for nearly a minute before safely landing on a glacier more than 1,000 meters below.
However, valley 80 rose off is a trained professional, and even for him, it was challenging with conditions making it near impossible most days of the year.
Anyway, while planes don’t fly over Everest these days remarkably, a pair of tiny Air Force jets successfully made the journey in April 1933.
Some 20 years before Hillary and Tenzing made it to the top while the two planes managed to soar a hundred feet over the summit, it wasn’t without struggle.
Without pressurized cabins, the pilots had to rely on oxygen tanks to breathe on top of that mountain winds created downward currents which caused the planes to drop 1,500 feet as they to climb an altitude, just another example of the treacherous air conditions of the area.
Of course, with any place shrouded in mystery, Everest has its fair share of superstitions.
Some believe that planes AVOID it because of an invisible evil force which engulfs aeroplanes, while others refer to the ghosts of fallen warriors and some even to the presence of the abominable snowman.
Take that as you will.
That’s all for Why Planes Don’t Fly to The Top of Everest.
Would you ever try to climb it?
Let us know in the comments thanks for making till the end; we’ll see you next time.