Have you ever wondered why there has never been an air-based travel business to the top of Mount Everest? People would enjoy an easier route through a helicopter to the top of the world without worrying about a long climb. But why does such activity not exist? The real question you ought to be asking is, can a helicopter fly to the top of Mount Everest?
The answer to this question is not quite simple. To answer the question simply, yes, a helicopter can fly to the top of Mount Everest. A helicopter-based summit to the top of Everest has been successful as well. In 2005, Didier DelSalle flew to the top of Mount Everest.
But this helicopter-based victory to the top of the world was a victory achieved walking on a thread. Such travel would barely work in normal conditions. A regular helicopter would be unlikely to survive such a flight.
So, why can’t helicopters fly to Mount Everest summit? Various scientific and technical aspects to a helicopter journey to the top of Everest need to be understood. These aspects are broken and simplified in this article.
World Record: Landing Helicopter on Top of Everest
The scientific breakdown
Air pressure/density and oxygen levels
The basic understanding you need to have when you plan to travel to a high-altitude place is the changes in the environment. The higher the plane is, the less the air pressure and density is. The top of Mount Everest is one-third of the sea level’s atmospheric pressure. This level of air pressure is not convenient for helicopters to handle.
The oxygen levels at the Everest base camp itself are at a 50% drop. The further up you go, the oxygen levels keep decreasing. Acclimating to such a low oxygen level is difficult, even when done slowly. The abrupt change in oxygen levels while traveling on a flight could be life-threatening. Oxygen levels drop as low as 33% at the 8,000 meters point.
The air-based travel to remote and high-altitude places like Everest requires a myriad of calculations. The altitude is diverse, the weather keeps changing, and the air pressure is bizarre.
To travel smoothly, the pilots ought to carry out various calculations based on temperature, altitude, pressure, and density values. These values also change very shortly. If these calculations have even a tiny shred of error, it could lead to a disaster. A single landing could easily cause an avalanche that could kill many climbers.
Harsh Weather problems
The Weather on Mount Everest is quite unpredictable and changes very quickly. Heavy snowfall, thick cloudy weather, and extremely cold weather make a helicopter flight to the summit almost impossible.
For most of the year, the Everest region has freezing weather. It receives a lot of snowstorms and wind. Just the weather alone has caused disastrous avalanches. Such weather could easily throw in a shard of ice sharp enough to destroy a helicopter.
The weather in the Everest region is considered to be moderately better during spring(April- May). Among all the attempts, the only successful summit of Didier DelSalle seems to have also happened in May.
Although the clearer weather in spring(April-May) might allow helicopters some convenience to fly, it is not fully guaranteed. The wind during even such comparatively better weather goes up to 75mph. This could quite literally classify as a hurricane category one wind.
So, can a helicopter fly to the top of Mount Everest? Science says it isn’t impossible but quite risky and not worthy.
The technological difficulty
The only helicopter that landed on the top of Everest needed several modifications. Various parts of the helicopter were removed to make the weight of the helicopter lighter. This allowed the helicopter to overcome issues caused by air pressure.
It had pilots with immense confidence and skills working on it. This reduced the error margin and resulted in a safe landing.
Such helicopters and pilots cannot be expected every time. The landing of Didier DelSalle was one of a kind and rare. We cannot wish for such extravagant helicopter travels on a regular basis.
Learning the technical aspects of things, can a helicopter fly to the top of Mount Everest? The answer is yes but only for experimental, rare, and bizarre circumstances.
Use of helicopters on the Everest summit
We know for a fact that there exists an arrangement of rescue helicopters for the Everest trek. Various stranded and sick climbers are rescued through these helicopters. Many helicopters were deployed during the 2015 Nepal earthquake for the rescue mission for lost climbers on Everest. But what are the limits of such helicopters? Can helicopters fly near the Everest summit?
The appropriate question to ask is how high can helicopters fly up Everest? The helicopters deployed for climbers’ rescue can fly as high as 6,400 meters. This is because the flat terrain for landing is at this height at Camp 2.
These rescue helicopters are of utmost importance in the Everest climbing journey. But they are unfortunately of no use above Camp 2. The lack of flat terrain at higher altitudes seems to limit the helicopters.
Based on the arrangements and terrains, can a helicopter fly to the top of Mount Everest? The answer is, unfortunately, a hundred percent no.
Higher than Everest
Can a helicopter fly over Everest? The answer to this question is also affirmative. However, you need to take it with a grain of salt.
Before the Didier DelSalle, in 1972, an Aerospatiale SA 315 Lama flew over 12,442 meters. This record was broken in 2002 by a flight in Eurocopter AS350 B2, which flew over 12,954 meters. Remember that both such flights are extravagant, like the Didier DelSalle that was made to break records.
It’s like the journey to the moon. It has been done, and we know it is possible. But it is in no shape or form feasible to be done every now and then. It’s once in a lifetime achievement of humankind and not a regular activity.
Frequently Asked Questions
You must have gotten most of your answers if you came across this article. All in all, let’s break down the fundamental answers about airway travel to Everest.
Can a helicopter fly to the top of Mount Everest?
Yes, it is possible, but very rare occurrence. It cannot be a commercial thing.
Can you, as a regular individual, fly to the summit of Everest?
The answer is no. You need to trek the mountain on your legs to reach the summit.
Can a helicopter help you through your Everest trek?
Yes, rescue helicopters can take you back in case of an emergency.
Can helicopters fly over Everest?
It also seems possible, but there has never been an attempt to fly directly over Everest. Such flights are only done for experimental purposes.
Although the idea of summiting Everest easily through a helicopter is not quite possible for most of us, a flight to its base can be managed. The idea we are suggesting is the Everest Base Camp helicopter tour. A trek to summit to the top of the world comes with many challenges. But, a trip to its base camp is relatively convenient.
A helicopter flight from Lukla to base camp, to Kalapatthar, and back to Lukla usually takes about 40 minutes. Although ample options to travel to the Everest base camp are available such as walking, driving through jeeps, buses, or trains, a helicopter flight is the most convenient.
The helicopter tour allows you to have an ethereal experience of the beautiful snowcapped Himalayas. It also saves you the labor and exhaustion that comes from other means of traveling. You could be immobile and still be able to experience watching the majestic views of Everest. Not only does this come with such convenience, but it is also a short trip.
The helicopter flight from Lukla to base camp allows you to observe the local monasteries and people without having to exhaust your legs. You see a very festive view of the Namche Bazaar and get to land on the base camp. Most people find the viewing experience from Kaala Patthar to be one of the best experiences of their lifetime. Everest, from that point, is unbelievably beautiful and out of the world.