Travel at Your Own Risk

Why is Nepal the world’s most dangerous place to fly?
It is vital that the Nepalese government continues to revisit its safety standards and procedures.

By Bilal Mustikhan | May 2023

Nepal, the home to eight of the fourteen highest mountains in the world, attracts tourists from all around the globe. It is a small country in South Asia, with a population of approximately 30 million people. According to the Nepal Tourism Board, more than 600,000 tourists visited Nepal in 2022, compared to the 230,000 tourists visited the Himalayan country in 2020.

While for some, the adrenaline rush begins once they start climbing, for many, the clock starts to tick as soon as they board the flight for Nepal. The country holds the world’s worst aviation safety records, falling under the category of the world’s most dangerous place to fly. Hence, one is more likely to die on board an airplane than on a mountain.

According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Nepal is classified as a Category 2 state, meaning that it has significant safety concerns related to its aviation infrastructure, regulatory oversight, and/or operational practices.

There have been several high-profile aviation accidents in Nepal in recent years, which have highlighted the dangers of flying in the country. In 2018, a US-Bangla Airlines flight crashed while attempting to land at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, killing 51 people on board. The accident was caused by pilot error and miscommunication with air traffic control.

In 2019, a helicopter carrying seven people, including the Minister of Culture, crashed in the mountains in eastern Nepal, killing everyone on board. The accident was caused by poor weather conditions and the challenging terrain in the area.

The most recent nosedive of Yeti Airlines in central Nepal in January 2023 has alarmed tourists worldwide and compelled the sane ones to change their itinerary. The seventy people who died in this fatal crash are among a total of 357 passengers who have died in 19 commercial airline crashes in Nepal since 2023. This means that the probability of an airline crashing in Nepal every year is alarmingly high.

The above statistics compel us to ponder why Nepal is the world’s most dangerous place to fly. The most obvious blame would fall on the mountains and the nature of the land itself. Nepal is a home to the Himalayas, which means that planes need to maintain an extraordinary altitude. According to AvLaw, an aviation consultancy firm, the elevated airports are located in remote areas and the nature of the air makes it challenging for airplanes to take off and land as they would in any normal circumstance. Pilots also need to receive extensive training to navigate through challenging terrain during take-off and landing.

Besides the terrain, the unpredictable weather patterns also make landing and taking off an ordeal task as many pilots use visual references from outside to control and navigate their plane. Pilots follow Visual Flights Rules to steer their planes but sometimes, they need to circumvent these rules on their flight path.

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